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Expect a scrap, warns Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is preparing to flash a warning to his players at training tonight - beware of the threat Roscommon will pose!

The Red Hands will meet the beaten Connacht finalists in the fourth round of the All-Ireland qualifiers on Saturday and now that they have been installed as hot favourites to win this game, football followers throughout the country are purring at the prospect of a Dublin v Tyrone quarter-final showdown.

But Harte, while delighted with the manner in which his team performed in winning against Armagh at the weekend, believes that Roscommon will offer his side a much bigger challenge than many people imagine. So he will not be treating them lightly.

"I was at the Connacht final and I was very impressed by Roscommon. There was only a kick of a ball between them and Mayo in that match. I think that Roscommon actually played as well as Mayo so we will have to play just as well as we did against Armagh if we are to have a chance of winning," observes Harte.

The westerners certainly stretched Mayo to the limit before eventually losing by 0-13 to 0-11, and have outstanding players in Karl Mannion, Senan Kilbride and Donie Shine.

Tonight Harte will brief his players on the blueprint for Saturday's contest.

And his familiar steely sense of purpose clearly surfaces when he suggests that "it's early days yet" in terms of his team's championship intent.

Even so, Tyrone have not only poured scorn on the notion that they are an 'ageing' side but indeed have shown the potential to become even better.

"I have never subscribed to the theory of ageism and I will let the players' performances do all the talking," insists Harte.

"Obviously there is speculation in relation to the quarter-finals but our total focus is on Roscommon. We know how close they came to winning the Connacht title and we have taken that very much on board."

Yet any manager who can bring on five experienced All -Ireland medal winners as substitutes, as Harte did against Armagh on Saturday night, clearly has rich resources at his disposal.

Competition for places now is not just keen - it is white-hot.

Sean O'Neill, Colm Cavanagh and Peter Harte have surely established themselves in the side while Mark Donnelly continues to grow in stature in an attack that many thought would become dysfunctional without players like Brian Dooher, Martin Penrose, Owen Mulligan and Stephen O'Neill in from the start.

A tweaked hamstring suffered in training on Thursday night prevented Aidan Cassidy lining out against the orchard county while Justin McMahon is eyeing a starting place in defence now that he is fit again.

In terms of his overall selection process, Harte may find himself attempting to insert a square peg into a round hole but you certainly won't find him complaining too much about this.

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