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Tyrone's Mickey Harte eager to keep his foot on pedal

By John Campbell

Published 04/02/2016

Up for the challenge: Connor McAliskey is relishing the battle for a place in Tyrone’s line-up
Up for the challenge: Connor McAliskey is relishing the battle for a place in Tyrone’s line-up

There was never the slightest ambiguity about Mickey Harte's pre-season declaration in relation to Tyrone's targets.

"We are in competitions to win them, simple as that," stated the triple All-Ireland winning boss.

Eight games after those words, Tyrone already have two trophies under lock and key and remain the only unbeaten side in Ulster.

Yet this is nothing more than preliminary sparring in preparation for the main bouts in the eyes of the fiercely-driven Harte, still as zealous as ever 14 years after taking over the Red Hand reins.

Now he is challenging his side to bring even further momentum to their Allianz League Division Two campaign as a precursor to a full-frontal assault on championship glory.

"Winning breeds a good feeling and we want to win every game in which we participate," stressed Harte (pictured).

"While we are pleased to have won the O'Fiaich and McKenna Cups, we are now very focused on getting promoted in the league. It would be nice to go into the three-week break coming up in the competition with maximum points from two games."

Having overcome Cavan last Sunday, Harte's men will face rejuvenated Galway this Sunday who, like Tyrone, have already sampled success this term by winning the Connacht FBD League by beating Roscommon in the final.

And as Harte continues to modify his side with each passing game, his players have become increasingly aware that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in terms of selection.

Key forward Connor McAliskey did not start in the Dr McKenna Cup final against Derry but made an impact as a substitute before earning a place in the starting line-up against Cavan.

Like his colleagues, sharpshooter McAliskey takes each game as it comes.

"There is no doubt that as we have moved along so far this year, the different teams which Mickey has sent out have done well and this obviously helps to bring an extra dimension to training and preparation," said McAliskey.

"The fact that no one is sure of his place means that striving to get into the side is a new challenge as each game comes along. Some of the new guys who have come in have been doing well and that helps to keep the pressure on everyone else."

McAliskey scored two points against Cavan at the weekend having converted three important frees when he was sprung from the bench in the McKenna Cup final.

But he is aware that manager Harte is seeking even greater accuracy from every player in the side.

"Mickey wants us to make more of our chances and that's something that we will have to do against Galway if we are to have a chance of winning," added McAliskey.

"He is looking for consistency and likes to see a spread of scorers so every player is always keen to step up to the mark. We know what is expected from us and we just have to deliver."

Tyrone have some particularly attractive matches looming when the league resumes, particularly their meeting with Derry on March 5.

"This will be our fourth meeting since December and obviously with league points at stake it will be very important," pointed out McAliskey.

And Harte himself emphasises the importance of Sunday's game against Galway as he sees it.

"You have the first two rounds of the league and then you have the break. It's very important to be going into the break with some sort of cushion. Early points are always important in the league. If you don't manage to get them, then you are looking at the drop and trying to avoid it," insisted the Red Hands manager.

"It's worth pointing out that as the league progresses teams can become desperate for points in their bid to avoid relegation and that does not make things easier for anyone.

"We really need to take the two points that are on offer in Sunday's game against Galway so that we can go into the break in a good position rather than a shaky one."

Belfast Telegraph

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