Harte urges caution as wave of optimism sweeps Tyrone
The 2017 season may still be a little way off but already there are strong indications that Tyrone are set to build further on the progress they made this term.
Two players in the All-Star team, three clubs still in contention for the Ulster Club Senior, Intermediate and Junior titles, a reinvigorated Sean Cavanagh gearing up for another stint at the coalface and a tranche of exciting talent straining at the leash to impress manager Mickey Harte as he ponders the make-up of his preliminary squad combine to suggest that the Red Hands will become a stronger force.
Tyrone's eight-month unbeaten run this year was only ended at the quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland series when Mayo proved superior by a single point (0-13 to 0-12), a defeat that was particularly hard to take considering Harte's men were surprisingly below-par.
Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly fully deserve the All-Star awards they have been accorded but while optimism again takes root that Tyrone can soar to the top, schoolteacher Harte sounds a note of caution.
"It's very early days yet to be even thinking about provincial Championship football or where titles might go," stated Harte.
"We have a very demanding campaign in Division One of the league against us and this will certainly throw light on how the Championship might unfurl in the provinces. While it was great to win a few trophies this year, we were naturally disappointed at the manner in which we exited the All-Ireland series.
"It's certainly a plus factor to see the raft of players that are coming to the fore in the county. When you look at the way the likes of Niall Sludden and Conor Meyler performed for Tyrone this year, you would have to think that this provides a big incentive for other players to show what they can do."
The belief that Cavanagh can continue to prove an influential figure within the side and the outstanding form currently being revealed by a battery of this year's county squad members on the Club Championship front help to ferment the hope that the Red Hands can not just remain on their Ulster throne but can also perhaps recapture the Sam Maguire trophy.
Mark Bradley and the McCann brothers, Tiarnan and Conall, are continuing to drive Killyclogher to what is hoped will be Ulster Club title glory and the trio will have key roles in Sunday week's semi-final against Slaughtneil.
Killyclogher manager Dominic Corrigan, while pleased with his side's progress, accepts that Slaughtneil will be "our biggest test yet".
He said: "I said at one stage during the Tyrone Championship that any one of several teams could have won the title and now we have a situation in the Ulster Club series where the four remaining sides will all believe that they have the capacity to come out on top. Slaughtneil will be our biggest test yet."
The McGeary brothers, Hugh, Pat and Kieran, along with Frank Burns form the county representation in a Pomeroy side that hammered Cavan champions Arva last weekend and will now meet Derry champions Castledawson in the provincial Intermediate Football Championship semi-final.
And not to be outdone, Rock, powered by former Tyrone ace Ciaran Gourley, continue to keep the Tyrone flag flying in the Ulster Club Junior Football Championship in which they will face Fermanagh representatives Newtownbutler.
Tyrone spokesman Eunan Lindsay said: "It's very heartening to see our clubs still in the running for Ulster trophies at different levels while it is also encouraging to note the All-Star awards for Peter and Mattie.
"While our county team won four trophies this year including the Ulster title, this does not guarantee us anything going forward. Other counties will be very keen to progress and we know that we have to knuckle down if we want to achieve the goals that we will be setting for ourselves."