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Mickey Harte throws down gauntlet to new crop of Tyrone talent

By John Campbell

Not for the first time, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte will give a fresh corps of novices a big chance this Sunday. Never one to shirk a challenge, Harte plans to run the rule over his restructured side in an O'Fiaich Cup semi-final tie against Louth at Crossmaglen which is far removed from all-ticket status and yet could have a bearing on the level of progress the Red Hands make in the months ahead.

When Tyrone claimed the prize this time last year, it triggered an eight-month unbeaten odyssey that was only halted by an efficient but far from accomplished Mayo at the quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland Championship.

And while his side may have garnered four trophies for their endeavours, Harte's restless spirit ensures that his focus will remain on the big one in 2017.

Thus players such as Michael Cassidy (Ardboe), Harry Loughran (Moy), Cahir McCullagh (Greencastle), Declan McClure (Clonoe), Ruairi Mullan (Cookstown) and Ronan McHugh (Aghyaran) are expected to get the chance to prove their worth at some stage against a Louth side whose vulnerable defence proved their undoing in this year's Championship.

This time last year, Conor Meyler and Niall Sludden were comparative unknowns within the Tyrone ranks but Harte's bold gamble to unleash them while the season was still in its infancy was to pay dividends.

Meyler has thrown in his lot with St Mary's University College for the McKenna Cup but he is someone that the current crop of wannabes must seek to displace if they are to prosper.

Harte has given them an early vote of confidence, too.

"The O'Fiaich Cup is good for us because it allows us to see players who may then have ties to their universities for the McKenna Cup," pointed out Harte.

"We have these six new lads in and they are good players. They are settling in well, which is encouraging."

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