Mickey Harte upbeat for Tyrone future
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is drinking in the positives as he turns his attention to 2014.
The return to full fitness of goalkeeper Niall Morgan, the emergence of a platoon of exciting young players through the county minor team, the completion of the Garvaghey Centre of Excellence and the strong possibility that players like Joe McMahon and Conor Gormley will again be wearing the county colours in the new season provides Harte with considerable encouragement going forward.
And as he prepares to take in this weekend's senior championship semi-finals, Harte believes that Tyrone could be on the cusp of another exciting era.
"When the Ulster Championship draw for next year is made, it certainly helps to focus minds," observes Harte.
"And it tends to draw a veil over what happened this year to some extent. You are always looking for the positives and thankfully they are in evidence just now."
It is understood that Harte will be amending his panel for next year, but he is in no hurry to show his hand.
With the senior championship semi-finals taking centre-stage in the county this weekend, he expects to assess a tranche of familiar faces as well as noting the progress of several other players he has been monitoring of late.
While, like every other county, Tyrone had hoped to avoid the preliminary round of the Ulster championship, the fact that they have been drawn against Down is seen as providing the perfect launch pad for the competition.
"It is certainly a very appealing game and will obviously pull in the fans," said Harte.
"But there is a lot of football to be played between now and then so we will just keep our sights trained on more immediate goals on and off the pitch."
Meanwhile, success may have eluded Sean Cavanagh with Tyrone this year, but there could yet be a double end-of-season bonus in store for him.
Not only is Cavanagh a strong favourite to lift the coveted Footballer of the Year accolade when the Ulster GAA Writers' Association banquet is held in Bundoran on November 15, but for the first time in over half-a-century his Moy club have reached the semi-finals of the Tyrone senior championship.
Having made an apprehensive start to the competition, Moy have gained in cohesion and confidence and their 1-9 to 0-9 quarter-final victory over Trillick last weekend has sparked football fervour in the village.
But Cavanagh continues to preach caution with today's semi-final against a particularly strong Carrickmore side just hours away.
"We have been taking one step at a time and we will continue to do just that," he insists.
"There are some excellent sides still left in there and whoever wins the title is certainly going to have to earn it the hard way."
It's an assessment that will brook no argument within Tyrone, especially as the other semi-final between reigning champions Errigal Ciaran and 2008 winners Clonoe, which will take place tomorrow, holds arguably even more appeal.
For Cavanagh, Moy's emergence as a potential championship force is not before time.
"We have flattered to deceive in the championship in the past, but this time round we have got a little more consistency going for us and this is proving a big help," says Moy's pivotal player.
He will be coming up against some familiar faces in the Carrickmore side as Conor Gormley, Martin Penrose and Mark Donnelly are among his Red Hands colleagues.
Title-holders Errigal Ciaran, meanwhile, are in pole position for Sunday's semi-final against Clonoe, who last won the crown in 2008.
Peter Harte, John Devine, Ciaran McGinley, Davy Harte, Aidan McCrory, Mark Kavanagh and Thomas Canavan can fire up the Errigal challenge against a Clonoe side that will look to Conor McAliskey to pirate scores at one end of the pitch and to experienced goalkeeper Michael O'Neill to thwart the opposition hot-shots at the other end.
While Errigal Ciaran, managed by Ronan McGuckin, boast a fine championship pedigree, Clonoe have been particularly consistent this year, their physical power and finishing skills very much in evidence in their championship run to date.
And with McAliskey having been in fine form for Tyrone this term, hopes are high that the title can be recaptured.
Clonoe captain Stephen McNulty, while encouraged by his team's recent form, acknowledges that Errigal Ciaran will test them to the full.
"Their tails will be up after a couple of big wins. We know what to expect and we know that we can't take any chances," states McNulty.