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Ulster Championship: Tyrone to stick with veterans

By John Campbell

Tyrone’s young guns may have to exercise a little more patience in their bid to displace some of Mickey Harte’s frontline troops from their entrenched positions in the Red Hands line-up.

Prior to the Ulster Championship there was speculation that an introduction of fresh blood would be required to cement Tyrone’s efforts to claim a third provincial crown.

But as he concentrates on his team’s build-up to the Ulster semi-final meeting with Donegal on Sunday week, there is evidence to suggest that Harte may rely even more strongly on his battle-hardened campaigners for a match that could prove to be one of the best of the year to date.

In the quarter-final against Monaghan, Harte underlined the importance of taking quick, decisive action in order to maintain his team’s equilibrium and momentum.

Cathal McCarron was summoned ashore from his full-back berth after getting a yellow card in the 14th minute and Peter Harte was withdrawn from the fray in the 43rd minute even though he had converted a ‘45’ and landed a long-range free.

Dermot Carlin spent 35 minutes on the pitch as a substitute before being replaced and Martin Penrose, who had been battling against an injury in the build-up to the game, found himself being replaced by Owen Mulligan in the 56th minute.

These crucial calls by the Tyrone boss certainly played a big part in bringing his side to victory, particularly as Mulligan and Colm Cavanagh, who replaced Harte, made a strong impact.

Even though Peter Harte, Niall McKenna, Kyle Coney and others are being hailed as successors to the old guard, Harte clearly has no intention of tampering unnecessarily with his side.

Ironically, Mark Donnelly made his championship debut against Monaghan and didn’t score, yet his work-rate and unselfishness could see him get the vote again against Donegal when Joe McMahon could perhaps come in at left-half-forward for what will undoubtedly be a physical encounter.

Harte’s curt dismissal of the theory that his side has aged is given added credence by the outstanding displays of Conor Gormley, Stephen O’Neill, Brian McGuigan, Sean Cavanagh and Philip Jordan — all triple All-Ireland winners — against Monaghan.

This quintet of senior citizens set the tone for an efficient, if not spectacular display that has sparked optimism for the meeting with a Donegal side which inflicted a heavy defeat on the Red Hands in the National League.

Wisely, manager Jim McGuinness is playing down that result – he knows that Tyrone invariably carry a rather more convincing demeanour in June than they do in February.

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