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Harte is eager to serve up O'Fiaich joy as appetiser to McKenna tilt

By John Campbell

The days immediately prior to Christmas are not normally associated with a marked hunger to place a trophy on the table along with the rest of the festive goodies.

But Tyrone boss Mickey Harte makes no apologies for putting the seasonal spirit on hold as he prepares to deliver what he hopes will be his first trophy for some time tomorrow.

The O'Fiaich Cup final is far removed from the trappings of the great sporting cathedral that is Croke Park which has become something of a second home for the triple All-Ireland winning boss but Harte will nonetheless bring his familiar intensity, pride and commitment into play when his side take on Louth in the decider at Oliver Plunkett Park, Crossmaglen (1.30pm).

Harte may secretly have been hoping to renew acquaintances with Armagh, a pairing that would certainly have whetted appetites on a broader basis, but he still sees Louth as a useful work in progress who will be more than keen to lay down a marker as to their intent for 2016.

"You enter competitions such as the O'Fiaich Cup because you want to win," asserted Harte.

"Winning breeds confidence and helps to bring on players. I am keen not only to win the O'Fiaich Cup but to win the McKenna Cup again next month."

Be that as it may, tomorrow's assignment offers Harte what he views as a useful opportunity to assess the raft of new players that he has introduced to his side.

"We were happy to get over Derry in the semi-final last week by getting the scores at the times in the game that we did," reflected Harte.

"We needed them to put ourselves on the front foot.

"I think it was good, particularly from the perspective of the number of debutants we had in our side. But it's very early days yet."

In what was essentially a new-look Tyrone team, Ritchie Donnelly, Patrick Quinn, Harry Og Conlan and Jonathan Munroe stepped up smartly to the mark and while Harte was impressed with the efforts of his newer recruits, he could not fail to have been impressed by the imposing performance of Ronan O'Neill at centre-half-forward.

The Omagh players scored seven points and played a big part in Quinn's goal that proved the catalyst for the Tyrone performance.

In Louth, Tyrone will be meeting a side with a big point to make next year after a disappointing campaign this term.

Their 4-10 to 0-17 semi-final win over Armagh has provided an early flash of encouragement for them to build on but Tyrone, even though denuded of several of their experienced competitors, will be an altogether different proposition.

Yet Louth have quality forwards in Conor Grimes, Colm Judge and Derek Maguire while substitutes Gea McSorley and Jim McEnaney impressed when introduced in the clash against Armagh.

The former scored an important goal and the latter landed four points to help take their side over the line and they look certain to now get more game time in what prove an interesting encounter.

Belfast Telegraph


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