Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Mickey Harte is all set to shuffle Tyrone pack in glory quest

Tyrone's Joe McMahon

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is happy to deploy players with sharply contrasting pedigrees as he steps up his pursuit of a fourth All-Ireland title since 2003.

When the Red Hands beat Roscommon 0-12 to 1-7 last Saturday in the second round of the All-Ireland qualifiers, Joe McMahon led the side in what was his 50th championship game.

But when the heat was turned up after the break Harte turned to debutants Kevin Gallagher and Sean Warnock to help take the side across the line.

While Harte emptied his bench, he admits that his side had lost their control of the game at a crucial stage.

"I'm concerned that we lost our grip, we didn't seize the opportunities to stem the tide when they were on top and that's what put us in trouble," reveals Harte.

Certainly Tyrone did not play with their customary flair and Harte suggests that his players should interpret this as a warning.

"Teams need games like this outing against Roscommon to get better but it doesn't mean that we will get better," he stresses.

"We have work to do. The final score was an unfair reflection on what Roscommon had to offer."

Warnock, who became the first player from the Greencastle club since Sean Teague in 2000 to be recognised by Tyrone, looked lively while Newtownstewart's Gallagher linked up with his fellow clubman Pascal McConnell in the Red Hands side.

Both players now join a plethora of candidates for starting places for Tyrone's third round qualifier tie, the draw for which will be made on Monday.

Having beaten Offaly in a lopsided game 1-25 to 0-8, Tyrone had been expected to trample all over Roscommon.

Instead, it was the Rossies who breathed fire and had they not missed a couple of late scoring chances they might well have managed to produce a shock result.

But Harte believes that his team can now benefit from this close encounter.

"We have to learn lessons from games like this," pronounces Harte.

"In each of the three years in which we won the All-Ireland title we had very close games at certain stages of our campaigns and we have to be able to respond to this latest one," points out the Red Hands boss.

Sean Cavanagh led the side to victory over Offaly but McMahon was happy to accept the captaincy last Saturday having shaken off the injury which forced him to miss the Tullamore game.

"It was good to be back in the side and to get the right result even if it was close in the end," maintains McMahon.

"I think the bit of experience we have, stood to us on this occasion but we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal.

"Other teams are stepping up their intensity now that we have reached a crucial stage in the championship and we have to keep a strong focus on what we are about."

McMahon, meanwhile, has an open mind in relation to next Monday's third round qualifier draw.

"We will take whatever is put in front of us," he asserts.

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