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Fresh blood can take us to new high says boss Harte

 

By John Campbell

In most counties, with the honourable exceptions of Dublin, Kerry and Mayo, the retention of a provincial title would be regarded as significant reward for a season's work. But Tyrone's achievement in winning the Anglo-Celt Cup for another year at least amounted to nothing more than a modest return for swatting away opposition that, for the most part, wallowed in mediocrity.

Yet as Red Hands' playmaker Peter Harte strives to take a step closer to what may be viewed in some quarters as the consolation prize of a club championship medal with Errigal Ciaran, he refuses to believe that his county's reputation is imperilled.

Instead, he positively embraces what he believes will be a whole new challenge as manager Mickey Harte prepares to deliver on his "we'll be back" promise.

"The underbelly of the current Tyrone squad is healthy and we have a lot of good young players which maybe was not always the case in recent years," insists the younger Harte.

"I have no doubt we are going to be hearing about a few more names next year in much the same way as we saw players like Kieran McGeary, Declan McClure, David Mulgrew, Padraig Hampsey and Conall McCann come to the fore in the championship season just ended.

"Hopefully, if new players can get to the level that these guys got to so quickly, that can only be good for Tyrone."

Dublin may have unleashed untold damage on Tyrone's morale in that shattering All-Ireland semi-final defeat but, with the county championship now approaching the semi-final stage, schoolteacher Harte believes that this is proving something of a road to redemption for many players.

"I believe the Tyrone championship is physically demanding, and that is ideal because this will be another step in the preparation of those players who would have ambitions of making it into the county squad," states Harte.

"I have no doubt that there are plenty of good footballers in Tyrone - there always has been, in fact - so hopefully we will get a few more coming through and Mickey will take us on to the next level.

"The important thing is that they get to the level of physicality and stamina that is necessary, and I think indeed that there are a number of players who are capable of this."

The ultra-competitive nature of the Tyrone senior championship saw seven different clubs take delivery of the title in as many years up until last year.

With holders Killyclogher now out of the reckoning, the prospects of the title being retained have gone - again - but Errigal Ciaran, who last won the title in 2012, and Omagh St Enda's, whose most recent crown arrived in 2014, still have viable aspirations of ascending the county throne once more.

"I think the club championship is proving a very fertile avenue for maturing talent and the fact that we have had replays means that players have had even more games in which to impress," points out Harte.

"This can only do good in the long run. I feel the championship is building towards a tremendous climax, and I have no doubt that Mickey will have taken stock of a lot of things."

One of the manager's priorities will be to settle on a replacement for Sean Cavanagh, while he will also bid to strengthen his defensive resources following Justin McMahon's decision to step down from the inter-county arena after several years of sterling service.

With Cathal McCarron now residing in Athy and considering his future, Harte may be forced to further tweak his rearguard, although he certainly has plenty of time on his side in this regard.

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