Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Harte wields axe as Tyrone prepare for brave new era

Mickey Harte

Ahead of the first team meeting in preparation for the 2013 season, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has made a raft of changes to his panel, axing several high-profile players who were part of the golden era of Red Hands football.

Early reports have indicated that three-time All-Ireland winner Brian McGuigan has been made surplus to requirements, along with John Devine and Davy Harte of Errigal Ciaran.

Other shock omissions include Dromore's Sean O'Neill, Augher's Aidan Cassidy and Niall McKenna of Donaghmore, expected to make the breakthrough in the forthcoming season.

From last year's panel Peter Hughes, Ciaran Gervin, Stephen McNally and Damian McCaul have also been let go.

Reports also suggested that Dromore's Cathal McCarron was dropped, although that has since been denied by the defender on his Twitter account.

The future of Owen Mulligan (below) is also in doubt, with the Cookstown attacker having said he will make a decision on his future in county football after this weekend's Ulster Intermediate decider, when he captains his club into battle against Warrenpoint.

This cull of the Tyrone side is an emphatic answer to critics who have suggested that in the past Harte has been too loyal to stalwarts of his team.

With the retirement of Ryan McMenamin a few weeks back, Tyrone now only have Conor Gormley, Sean Cavanagh and Stephen O'Neill remaining from the first Red Hands team to win the All-Ireland, back in 2003.

As they try to overcome the stranglehold Donegal have in Ulster, Harte has now rolled the dice in an effort to find a sharper edge to their play.

New additions to the panel include Errigal Ciaran's Thomas Canavan and Ciaran McGinley, Danny McBride of Strabane Sigersons and young Clonoe attacker Conor McAliskey who was so impressive for the under-21 side last year.

Dean McNally of Kildress will come into contention for a place at full-back alongside Conor Clarke, who established himself there earlier this year.

The youthful makeover is completed by the promising Omagh St Enda's duo Conan Grugan and Barry Tierney.

Tyrone begin life in Division One again and Harte has emphasised the importance of playing at the highest level, saying: “It's only when you are out of Division One you realise the loss you are at because you're not meeting the top teams week in, week out. Because other teams are playing at a higher level, they are more competitive.”

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