Harte in no rush to call on his stars
Patience is a virtue and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is discovering that he is currently having to exercise it to a considerable degree.
With high-flying Derry due in Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday night (7.30) for an alluring National Football League Division One encounter, Harte will again resist the temptation to summon some of his “less than one hundred per cent” troops into his starting line-up.
Enda McGinley, Aidan Cassidy and Joe McMahon are among those who have been battling injuries of late and while their undoubted physical presence, not to mention many-sided skills, would bolster the All Ireland champions against their ambitious neighbours, Harte is acutely aware that possible short-term gain could come at the expense of long term success.
“We don’t want to be taking chances with people. We need to take care of our players. There are some who are coming back from injurey and we don’t want to put them in a more dangerous place by taking chances with them.
“Enda McGinley and Aidan Cassidy have hamstring worries while Joe McMahon is feeling his way back after a knock and while all three may be able to make some contribution maybe against Derry, we will certainly not be imposing on them,” points out Harte.
Tyrone, of course, will still be without Stephen O’Neill, Justin McMahon and Brian Dooher but Philip Jordan, Conor Gormley, Sean Cavanagh, Owen Mulligan, Davy Harte, Colm McCullagh and Conor Gourley should provide the Red Hands experienced corps against the Oak Leaf side.
Even at this juncture, too, it
would seem that Harte has a mental picture of just what his championship line-up will look like.
But the triple All Ireland winning boss is looking no further down the line that the clash with Derry on Saturday.
“Derry are looking good right now and will come to us with high expectations. That’s no surprise. They have shown that they have strength in depth but I still think it will be a close encounter, it usually is when we meet them,” stresses Harte.
Against Donegal at the week-end, Tyrone scored just once in the second-half - not the type of return normally associated with the Sam Maguire Cup holders.
Not surprisingly, Harte is looking for a much better return from his attack against Derry - and attack, indeed, that may be amended to reflect greater striking power.
But while Harte keeps his counsel on his selection, he sees the timing of the game as “very important” from both teams’ viewpoint.
“I would imagine that we will have a big crowd and a great atmosphere. We are building towards the championship but obviously we are in need of points as we have only four to date. We could maybe slide a little further down the table depending on how next week-end’s results pan out,” insists Harte.
“We’re happy to be at home but a field is still a field - you have to perform to your optimum level if you want to auccess, particularly in such an important game as this.
“It will be nice to have the backing of our fans - we want to be as positive as we can.”
Caution may be the keynote in his selection but it’s still possible that circumstances could force his hand and prompt him to rely on some of his walking wounded - in part anyway - to hoist the Red Hands a little further up the table.
Mayo are also on four points alongside Tyrone but face a potentially hazardous assignment against Galway while Dublin and Donegal, both immediately below Tyrone, face Kerry and Westmeath respectively.
“We would rather chart our own destiny and let other games take care of themselves,” observes Harte.