Out with the old but Harte and Bradley are still on top
When several of Tyrone’s much-decorated players announced their retirements towards the end of last year, a lengthy transitional period appeared to be in store for Mickey Harte’s new-look side.
And when emigration and injuries robbed Antrim of some of its best talent, the belief was that 2012 might prove something of a hard slog for Liam Bradley’s side.
Yet here we are at the half-way stage in the National Football League with Tyrone and Antrim not only Ulster’s best-placed counties but both unbeaten.
The Red Hands have galloped to three wins on the trot against Derry, Kildare and Louth in Division Two while Antrim have claimed the scalps of Sligo, Clare and Tipperary in Division Three.
Harte has tweaked his line-up with the minimum of fuss and with just one-sixth of the year gone, a new generation of Tyrone stars have stamped their imprint on gaelic football.
Peter Harte, Matthew Donnelly, Aidan McCrory, Conor Clarke and Peter Hughes have already shown they are well capable of following in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors.
And it’s much the same in Antrim. Names such as Andrew McClean, Kevin Niblock and Sean McGreevey no longer adorn the team sheet but young guns such as Brian Neeson, Michael Armstrong and Ricky Johnston are shooting from the hip as a place in Division Two remains a viable target.
Perhaps Antrim’s three wins to date have not been against sides deemed to be of special quality but a winning habit will not only assist a team in gaining promotion but can also provide a more than useful catalyst for the championship.
Naturally, Saffrons boss Bradley is not prepared to look too far down the line but right now I would imagine is feeling fairly comfortable about his side’s prospects.
Next week-end’s games in all four divisions will put into sharper focus just who might go up and who might stay down.