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Harte busy building case for defence

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has stepped up the drive to further solidify his defence prior to the Dr McKenna Cup competition in January.

And the Red Hands boss is keeping his fingers crossed that he will unearth more players with the same qualities of leadership and commitment as the recently-retired Ryan McMenamin.

The Dromore clubman’s decision to step down from the county squad means that Conor Gormley now becomes the longest-serving member of the rearguard having garnered three All-Ireland medals and been a fixture in the team for over a decade.

Harte has already conducted trials and is currently assessing a number of players with a view to introducing some of them to his side in the early part of 2013.

Pascal McConnell, Aidan McCrory, Conor Clarke, Justin McMahon, Dermot Carlin, Cathal McCarron, Sean O’Neill and the veteran Gormley will be among the frontrunners to again become regulars in the side but Harte insists he is keeping his options open.

The opportunity is there for any player to come in and make an impact.

“There is still a fair depth of talent within Tyrone and obviously we would like to make a better impression next year than we did this year,” says Harte.

The loss of McMenamin robs Tyrone of a player who wore his heart on his sleeve, never gave less than 100 per cent commitment and, although he had the occasional brush with controversy, always figured highly in Harte’s thinking.

“I honestly believe that Ryan McMenamin was a real bonus to Tyrone football,” reflects Harte.

“Even before I took over he was a major player under the previous management and he gave great leadership throughout the time he was with me.

Over the course of the past 18 months, McMenamin has not always been an automatic first-choice defender yet his attitude even when he was left out of the starting side never failed to impress Harte.

“I have to commend him for the way he accepted everything. Sometimes decisions went against him, even early on in his career if he didn't start a Championship match he didn't make an issue of it, he just fought his way back into the team and remained there up until quite recently,” points out the Tyrone boss.

“Even in the last year or two what with the injuries he had to endure and the fact that his legs were maybe not as fresh as they once were, he was always able to accept his role of playing part games rather than whole games.”

Harte is adamant that McMenamin's ability to massage morale within the squad and provide inspiration, particularly when Tyrone found themselves swimming against the tide, were invaluable attributes.

“He was just a very good person to have around the squad, great with young players, great to make them comfortable, make them feel at home, good to talk to us as management.

“For a player of his experience and what he had done I think he is a huge loss to this team,” adds Harte.

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