Mickey aims to power Tyrone up table
It's perhaps just as well that Tyrone manager Mickey Harte does not do panic.
With his team marooned pointless at the bottom of the National Football League Division One table, high-flying Cork due at Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday night and midfield ace Kevin Hughes nursing a troublesome shoulder injury, Harte could be forgiven for resorting to Valium.
Yet the triple All Ireland winning boss remains outwardly calm and composed and adheres resolutely to the conviction that his side will retain their top tier status.
“At this point in time we are where we don’t really want to be but we have four games coming up which offer us the chance to survive in Division One beginning with Cork this weekend,” says Harte.
“Obviously we need to get something from this to kick-start our revival but I still believe that we can retain our status despite the three defeats we have sustained to date.”
In fact, the Red Hands have suffered four setbacks on the bounce, their Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup final slip-up against Donegal having been followed by the league reversals against Derry, Mayo and then Monaghan last Sunday.
After their crucially important clash with unbeaten Cork, they must face Galway (away) before taking on Kerry and Dublin both at home.
His team’s itinerary could hardly be more daunting — or more attractive from the fans’ viewpoint, let it be said — yet Harte exudes a stoic demeanour, obviously confident that the players’ experience and commitment will ultimately help underpin an extended tenure in the elite division.
The injury which forced Hughes to withdraw from the action against Monaghan is a big source of concern to Harte as Cork possess perhaps the most physically imposing midfield pairing in the country in Alan O’Connor and Pearse O’Neill — and they can still call upon the vastly experienced Nicholas Murphy, who missed last Saturday’s win over Galway, if necessary. O’Neill scored a spectacular goal in that match and can play with equal facility at centrethreequarters.
While Hughes undergoes treatment, Harte can take encouragement from the display of Adrian Cassidy against Monaghan.
He may still be a comparative rookie in the Red Hands side but the burly Cassidy imposed himself to such an extent that Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney hurriedly withdrew the struggling Fergus Caulfield and sent in Colm Greenan but that still did not stop the energetic Cassidy emerging as perhaps Tyrone’s best player.
Enda McGinley replaced Hughes at half-time and while there is now a suggestion that Sean Cavanagh could even enjoy some game time against Cork, Harte may not wish to risk the player in given his obvious lack of match practice following ankle surgery.
Cork have scored a whopping |5-44 in their three games but Harte will have taken on board that they have conceded 4-41.
With the recalled Martin Penrose and Owen Mulligan having looked particularly sharp against Monaghan, Harte has more forward options available to him but this week more than ever his renowned powers of motivation will be required in full if his team are to emerge from the doldrums.