Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

McCartan and Harte will rally young guns

Down manager James McCartan

Two Ulster team bosses have joined in challenging newcomers to their sides to retain their places even when a full complement of players becomes available.

And in doing so Tyrone's Mickey Harte and his Down counterpart James McCartan have made it abundantly clear that the days of certain players being deemed as sacrosanct to their plans are gone.

Even before the Allianz League had cranked into action, Harte unveiled his selection strategy and at a stroke eliminated the possibility of the slightest hint of complacency infiltrating his squad.

"I don't want it to be perceived that there are players in the team who are merely keeping the positions warm for other players who may be out through injury, suspension or any other reason," reiterates Harte.

"Players will continue to be selected on merit and in the context of the opposition we will be encountering."

He made five changes to his team for Sunday's defeat to Cork including the recall of Kyle Coney and Colm Cavanagh and was left disappointed at what he felt was a very flat performance.

But he has no intention on diluting his selection policy. Tyrone face a massive game against Dublin on Saturday and Harte stresses that he will pick what he feels is "the best team possible to do a job at Croke Park.

And he adds: "The value of a squad system is that players can be used as the occasion demands and this means that we look at the line-up in terms of each individual game."

While Harte hopes his side can do their prospects of reaching the league semi-final a power of good by overcoming the Dubs, Down boss McCartan makes no bones about the fact that he is not necessarily counting down the days until players like Liam Doyle, Dan Gordon, Danny Hughes and Ambrose Rogers are declared fully fit again.

After an encouraging display against Cork when they were decidedly unfortunate to lose by a point, Down scooped their first win in Division One at the expense of Mayo on Saturday and McCartan has since spelled out just what he will demand from his side for the remainder of the league.

"Unless something changes it's going to be championship time before our injured guys will be back to be honest.

I want the players who are in there to make it hard for those boys coming back to get into the team," raps McCartan.

And he believes that there is now a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the "building blocks" process the team has been following.

"When we played so well against Cork and still lost it was hard to take but against Mayo we produced a great finish and this shows that the team's building blocks process in terms of character is beginning to pay off," maintains McCartan.

"But we have three more important matches to come – beginning with a crucial game against Kerry this Saturday – and these will of course determine where we will be playing our league football next year."

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