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Cassidy ankle injury is a pain in neck to Liam Bradley and Mickey Harte

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Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his Antrim counterpart Liam Bradley share a common concern as they approach Sunday’s Ulster Championship first round tie at Casement Park, Belfast.

Harte is mulling over his midfield options now that a dislocated ankle has robbed him of the services of Aidan Cassidy while Bradley continues to monitor the fitness of Brendan Herron following the ankle injury he sustained against Sligo in the recent National League Division Three final.

The absence of Cassidy from the Red Hands line-up is compounded by the non-availability of Enda McGinley whose torn hamstring is proving slow to heal and this means that Harte will now select one of the Cavanagh brothers, Sean or Colm, to partner Kevin Hughes in his engine room.

Colm could be the preferred option thus allowing Sean to operate possibly at centrethreequarters if Stephen O’Neill starts at full-forward but all will be revealed when Harte announces his team at a Club Tyrone function on Thursday night.

Bradley meanwhile is hoping to nominate Herron and Michael McCann to patrol the Antrim midfield although if the former is not fully fit then Aodhan Gallagher will step in.

The return of Kevin McGourty affords Bradley a further option but it’s unlikely that the St Gall’s man would be plunged into such a vital role having been away from the county side for some time.

“Obviously we want to have as many people on board as possible for a match of this importance,” explains Bradley.

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Harte has been no stranger to injury worries since the start of this campaign but he remains philosophical.

“It’s not all bad news. While we are disappointed to be without players like Aidan Cassidy, Enda McGinley, Ciaran Gourley and Damien McCaul we are encouraged by the fact that Justin McMahon is returning to full full fitness and that Stephen O’Neill and Brian Dooher are back in the frame,” says Harte.

The triple All Ireland winning boss admits that Tyrone are unlikely to experience again the good fortunes they enjoyed in 2003 when the Sam Maguire Cup was won with just 16 players involved in the campaign.

“While we know we won’t be as lucky in the future you have to deal with things as they come up.

“There are a lot of good players in this Tyrone team and if they can keep us going then when we get our other injured players back we will still have hopefully something to play for,” maintains Harte.

And he insists that Antrim will have benefited considerably from their experience last year.

“People were questioning Antrim and wondering if they would be able to carry the tag they had earned. They have carried it comfortably by getting another promotion and this has helped to fire them up for the Championship,” adds Harte.

l ONE statistic is sure to have emboldened Dublin manager Pat Gilroy with the conviction that has effectively brought Jason Sherlock's 15-year inter county career to an end.

In each of the last three years that Dublin have exited the championship, Sherlock has ended those days watching on from the sidelines after being substituted.

Sherlock’s championship appearance against Kerry last August turned out to be his last as he has been told he will not be chosen for this year’s campaign.


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