Tyrone boss Harte keeps a close eye on Red Hand rivals
Published 29/05/2008 | 00:00
Derry begin their quest for the title on Sunday when they travel to Donegal while the Red Hands will host Down on Sunday week at Omagh.
And among the most focused spectators at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey will be Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.
Having dissected at first hand the action that unfolded at Brewster Park, Enniskillen last Sunday when Fermanagh beat Monaghan, Harte is now particularly keen to analyse the protagonists at Ballybofey.
"There is no doubt that this is the most open Ulster Championship races for some years and it's certainly building in terms of intensity," says Harte.
He is already resigned to being without key forward Owen Mulligan for the game against Down.
An injury to his lower back and hamstring will keep the Cookstown player on the sideline.
Harte had hoped that his ace attacker could play some part in Omagh, but the clock appears to have beaten Mulligan in his bid to make the cut.
"I played a club game for Cookstown and I got through it all right but just that night, I felt the pain again.
"I went for a scan and it showed that it flared up again, swelling on it and I don't think I'll be making the game against Down. I'll not be togging out at all for this one," said Mulligan.
His absence means that Tyrone will be without one of their most decorated forwards and will force Harte to perhaps restructure his front line.
He has already, of course, had to cope with the premature retirement of Stephen O'Neill while Brian McGuigan's fitness level is also under scrutiny.
Raymond Mulgrew, Ryan Mellon and Colm Cavanagh may get starting berths in the Tyrone attack but the energy and drive which Mulligan brings to the front line is likely to be missed, particularly in the demanding environment of the Ulster Championship.
Harte will formally unveil his side at a Club Tyrone function next week when the drive to further promote the GAA in the county will be further stepped up.
It has now become something of normal practice for Harte to defer naming his side until such events are held. Pater Canavan will be among the VIP guests.