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Harte hungry for more after early helpings of trophy joy

By John Campbell

Not many players achieve the distinction of picking up two trophies within a 24-hour period in the month of January.

But then Tyrone's Peter Harte tends to buck most conventions.

A matter of hours after lifting the coveted Footballer of the Year prize at the Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers' Association annual presentation ceremony, the Errigal Ciaran clubman captained Tyrone to their sixth consecutive success in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final.

Such a dual achievement might go some way to sate the appetite of most players but when schoolteacher Harte lines out against Roscommon in Sunday's Division One opening round tie at Healy Park, Omagh he will have his sights fixed on more lucrative booty.

"I am delighted to have won the Writers' award and to have captained Tyrone to another McKenna Cup triumph but now the whole focus is on the league," insisted Harte. "It's absolutely essential to get off to a good, fast start so that you are looking down rather than up in the league table.

"We need to produce a solid performance on Sunday. This time last year Roscommon were flying and putting up some great scores in the process.

"They were playing against all the top teams in Division One while we were in Division Two so they have a lot of experience behind them."

Tyrone's latest Dr McKenna Cup triumph has not only bolstered confidence within the side but has intensified competition for places.

If Sunday's game holds appeal, then the Red Hands' fixture against Dublin tomorrow week is already being viewed as a significant Championship pointer.

"This is a match that is just round the corner and there is no bigger test than having to face the Dubs in their own back yard," reflected Harte.

"It's two years since we have had the chance to play Dublin and measure ourselves against them. If you want to improve you have to show what you can do against the very best and there is certainly no better team at the minute than Dublin.

"They have been up there for the past four or five years but as far as we are concerned we will try and deal with the challenge of Roscommon first and then we will turn our attention to the Dubs."

Manager Mickey Harte has tweaked his side over recent weeks and several newcomers have already staked their claim for more regular inclusion in his line-up.

"The new guys who have come in are very good players and when you happen to be a good player at that age, you probably just need football. Thankfully Tyrone managed to get extra games in January so the newcomers got the chance to step up to the mark," stated Peter Harte.

"Even if they don't manage to make the side, they can still push the boys who are currently ahead of them. Every team now needs a very competitive panel to bring the best out in them and that's what we are working towards."

With their manager having already made it clear that he would like to see maximum points gained from the first two games before the league enters its traditional mid-February break, the players know what is expected from them.

Peter Harte added: "Getting points in the bag early is vital and these two games against Roscommon and Dublin are vital in this context."

Belfast Telegraph

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