Tyrone shaping up well for tougher challenges ahead
A familiar sight in Ulster football is a satisfied Mickey Harte addressing reporters while in the distance his assistant Tony Donnelly stands enjoying a cigarette.
The duo may be joined by Gavin Devlin, who stood alongside Harte in the Maor Foirne role yesterday, while Donnelly observed the game from the stands.
All three will have been delighted with how the tweaking of a new Tyrone team is coming along.
In acknowledging that it was a rather raw-looking Red Hands team that started, Harte responded: “That's true, I suppose it's a question of keeping a bit of balance in the team.
“You keep the core there if you can. I suppose with a few injuries and that we weren't able to keep as many in our core, but we have a lot of players to look at as well.
“You can't see all the players if you don't put them in there and yes, there was an area of inexperience about some sectors of the field but I think they acquitted themselves very well.”
All over the pitch, Tyrone held the edge. While Antrim had obviously earmarked Sean Cavanagh's huge performance against Derry last weekend and curtailed him accordingly, they were unable to counter his midfield partner Plunkett Kane.
The Coalisland man came in for rich praise from his manager.
“I think he complimented Sean's game well,” he said.
“It was a great debut performance in midfield. From the off you could see he was up for the challenge, he was involved in scores, he won ball in the middle of the field, laid it off and ended up on the end of a score once or twice.”
Ultimately, Tyrone were able to extract themselves because of their greater class up front, most notably from Stephen O'Neill and Peter Harte, who helped himself to two goals through a mixture of skill and persistence.
When pressed on Harte's potential positioning further in the season, with a return to centre-back a possibility, the manager played it canny.
“We will play the game as we see it. We have lots of good footballers
who are versatile to play both sides of the field but we will try and experiment with that to the best of their ability.
“When you have people who can finish, they are useful around the front half of the field,” he said.
Antrim manager Frank Dawson was far from downhearted afterwards, talking up his team as he assessed the play.
“I thought, beaten by six points, standing here I am probably a bit disappointed we were beaten by six points, actually slightly disappointed we were beaten,” he mused.
“That may seem hard when you look at the game, but when you look at the goal chances we missed… when you get those chances, it's clinical,” commented Dawson.
Antrim have one game left in the group stages and Dawson remains a font of positive energy about the road ahead.
“That's what these games are about — finding out the character of the boys you have about,” Dawson explained.
“The potential is there to take the boys forward.
“On the evidence of the two games we played, yes, it is there — if we can keep developing the good things that are working for us,” he concluded.