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Tyrone and Armagh will give young guns their chance to fire

By Declan Bogue

If any of the new trialists bidding to establish themselves on the Tyrone squad were in doubt how much football in December means, then manager Mickey Harte sent a loud message at the Dr McKenna Cup launch a couple of weeks back.

Asked a question about the potential eligibility clashes with the colleges in the January competition, Harte answered: "We have the O'Fiaich Cup now ourselves and this eases the burden of having to see players who would have ties to the colleges.

"We have six new lads in. They are good players and we have seen them in small-group training that is going on at the minute and they are settling in well, integrating well and they are very good footballers."

The players are Michael Cassidy (Ardboe), Harry Loughran (Moy), Cahir McCullagh (Greencastle), Declan McClure (Clonoe), Ruairi Mullan (Cookstown) and Ronan McHugh (Aghyaran). Cassidy and Mullan both played on the Tyrone U21 side that won the All-Ireland title in 2015 and they will join the other nine players from that team that are already in the senior squad.

Harte played a number of them in the O'Fiaich Cup semi-final win over Louth, and he appeared pleased, but was cautious in what the expectations might mean for their long-term chance.

"I do expect that some of them will be staying with us, but who that will be right now, I could not say until we see them in a competitive game situation, which we will see in the O'Fiaich Cup and hopefully five in the McKenna Cup," he explained.

Tyrone now get another chance to see how the new men are progressing, but also some older faces such as Niall McKenna, who lined out in the unusual position of centre-back against Louth, when they face Armagh in the final tomorrow in Crossmaglen.

His opposite number, Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney, is also experimenting with personnel on and off the pitch.

Aidan O'Rourke, who was his assistant at Kildare and for the last two years, has departed the set-up, and a few new faces were dotted around the team in their win over Derry.

"Well a lot of them are at the gym work and all that sort of stuff," said McGeeney of how the new talent are blending in.

"We have a lot of new faces this year and then we have a lot of older faces coming back from injury as well.

"Oisin MacIomhair has been pushing this last couple of years.

"Conor White tried very hard, Ben Crealey, Ciaran Higgins. But definitely it was good to see a few new faces pushing up and we have another few pushing on there."

It might be December football, but it means everything to some.

Belfast Telegraph

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