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Trials and tribulations for Mickey Harte’s Red Hands

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is preparing for one of the most important matches of the season to date — yet spectators will be conspicuous by their absence.

Harte, concerned that his side are currently marooned pointless at the basement of the National Football League Division One table, will this weekend oversee an in-house trial game immediately prior to trimming his squad from 44 to perhaps 30.

And given the ferocity of competition for starting places in the side recently and the fact that players such as Owen Mulligan, Raymond Mulgrew, Sean Cavanagh, Brian Dooher, Philip Jordan and Ryan Mellon are likely to be re-introduced to the squad anyway, the match is expected to be intense in the extreme.

Yet while Harte is obviously keen to have his big guns available again, he is not prepared to risk players.

“While Sean, Brian, Philip and Ryan have been progressing well, we really won’t know just how far they have come on until we see how they do when they get out on the grass. They have a lot of work to do but we are optimistic that they will come into the frame again and give us options. We won’t be rushing anyone, though,” insists Harte.

Harte assessed a number of younger players over the course of the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup but has recalled some of his more established stars since the start of the league. Even so, the Red Hands have fallen to Derry and Mayo.

The Tyrone boss does not mince his words as he ponders what he considers to be a hugely challenging itinerary for his side next month when he expects the National League to provide some spectacular action.

“We have to face Monaghan on the first weekend in March and the week after that we play unbeaten Cork at home.

“Then we have to go to Galway before taking on Kerry in Omagh on the last Saturday of the month. By any standards that is a tough programme and obviously we have work to do if we want to retain our place in Division One,” states Harte.

His desire to strengthen his side indicates a number of players, several of whom are still hoping to make the breakthrough this year, will endure disappointment when the inevitable cull takes place.

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