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Pat McGeary: Fierce fight for places is driving Tyrone on

By John Campbell

Published 25/02/2016

Clear aims: Hugh Pat McGeary wants to impress Tyrone boss Mickey Harte and help achieve promotion to Division One
Clear aims: Hugh Pat McGeary wants to impress Tyrone boss Mickey Harte and help achieve promotion to Division One

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is confronted with an embarrassment of riches as he prepares for Sunday's crucial Allianz Football League Division Two trip to Laois.

With his team having secured maximum points from their two outings to date and a number of players now back in action following injuries, Harte will take stock of his resources before confirming his line-up tonight.

When his side beat Galway in their last outing, Harte introduced six players from his bench - Hugh Pat McGeary, Sean Cavanagh, Mark Bradley, Lee Brennan, Ritchie Donnelly and Cathal McShane - who would walk onto most county teams.

Now they are chomping at the bit for starting places against a Laois side that defeated Armagh in round two and enter Sunday's game with confidence.

It is a measure of the level of competition for places in the Red Hands outfit that McGeary, who emerged as the hero of the win over Galway with a number of telling interceptions as well as scoring a crucial point, is in no way sure of getting game-time.

"I was delighted to get the call against Galway at half-time. We always knew this was going to be a very tough match but that guarantees me nothing," insisted McGeary.

"Competition for places is intense and every player is doing his best in training to make the line-up. Our main aim is to get out of Division Two. We know we have some tough games ahead."

Veteran Cavanagh and the cultured Bradley look certain to see action against Laois while Darren McCurry, Connor McAliskey and Ronan O'Neill may be retained in the full-forward line.

Harte, who prefers to keep his cards close to his chest, warns that his team must absorb lessons from their win over Galway.

"At one stage we were in control but we allowed them to get back into the game. Our game management was far from good at times," said Harte.

Tyrone received a dual boost this week when the county U21 side retained the Cremartin Cup by overcoming hosts Monaghan by 0-16 to 0-10 and St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon reached the Dankse Bank MacRory Cup semi-finals by beating holders St Patrick's College, Cavan.

Former Tyrone stars Peter Canavan and Ciaran Gourley played key roles in overseeing these significant successes with the former's imprint very much on the U21 triumph in his role as assistant manager while Gourley's coaching skills are coming to the fore with Academy.

Canavan's assessment that a fresh tranche of talent is beginning to come through at U21 level is likely to send a tremor through other Ulster counties.

He said: "We were not good in the first-half but we improved in the second and there are a number of lads who stepped up to the mark very well. This is very encouraging for the future and our whole focus now is on our Ulster Under 21 Championship."

Belfast Telegraph

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