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Harte keen to stay positive as Red Hands' issues mount

 

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Marching orders: Tyrone’s Mark Bradley gets a red card during the loss to Monaghan

Marching orders: Tyrone’s Mark Bradley gets a red card during the loss to Monaghan

�INPHO/John McVitty

Marching orders: Tyrone’s Mark Bradley gets a red card during the loss to Monaghan

While he may have turned up and been a discreet presence for Tyrone's opening league win over Meath on the first day of the Allianz League, Cathal McShane - last year's top scorer in the Championship - was not believed to be in attendance for their inept defeat to Monaghan in Castleblayney on Sunday.

With McShane at home while he spends time considering an offer to play Australian Rules Football, he last week attended a senior team meeting for his club Owen Roes, Leckpatrick.

His clubmates were careful not to exert too much pressure on him but were told he would take some time to consider his next move.

In his absence, the shortcomings of the Tyrone attack were magnified.

Across 78 minutes of football on Sunday, they hit just seven points from play. In the second half, they racked up seven wides. Inside forwards Mark Bradley and Ronan O'Neill had only one attempt between them, and that shot from the latter was blocked by Ryan Wylie.

Most worryingly, the Red Hands appeared to lack any sense of a focal point in attack. Without their captain Mattie Donnelly and McShane, they had difficulty holding onto possession and lost the ball in Monaghan's half 12 times in the first period alone.

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip, but Tyrone boss Mickey Harte appeared to concede the fight to keep McShane on these shores when he said: "It's not just about Cathal McShane. We'd love to have him of course, and he's gone.

"But Mattie Donnelly is injured at the minute, Paudie Hampsey is injured, who were very strong first-team players.

"Petie's (Peter Harte) just back this week from being away six or seven weeks, so he wouldn't be fit for a whole game. There's a lot of people, key players, that aren't in the position we would like them to be at the minute."

Pressed on the McShane issue, he added: "I always said I wouldn't give up hope until I was sure that he had signed an alternative arrangement.

"I'm not sure that that has happened yet, but I know that it's on the agenda."

What will have concerned Harte gravely was the sight of All-Star full-back Ronan McNamee departing the pitch on 40 minutes after a serious collision with Monaghan's Kieran Hughes.

"The doctors and the medical people take precautions nowadays with head injuries," said Harte.

"They want to check it out to see if it's safe to play on and we have to take their judgment on it, and they thought it was safer to be cautious and come off."

Last summer, McNamee put in a credible performance while marking Kerry attacker David Clifford, but it is conceivable that Tyrone may not have any of the full-back line of McNamee and fellow All-Star Padraig Hampsey or Michael McKernan available when the Kingdom bring their much-vaunted attack to Newry this Sunday.

"I don't know when you'd go out in Division One and find an easy game, so it's just a hard game and a harder game, that's just the way it is," said Harte. "That's why it is important to get as many points as you can early in the season, because they won't be any easier to come by at the end of the season."

Defender Rory Brennan cut a forlorn figure after the game.

"We just didn't play or perform as well as we expected to. We just have to hold our hands up and say Monaghan were much better than us on the day," said the Trillick man.

"We produced too many unforced errors and silly mistakes on our own behalf. It was just one of those games where we just couldn't get rest and get going.

"We won the McKenna Cup alright but are still shaking off some rust, and the league is obviously a step up. We had boys coming in for their first full game and you are going to expect it to take time to get up to speed.

"But we all would have expected a better performance."

There are fears that the Tyrone defence could suffer greatly at the hands of a Kerry full-forward line containing Clifford, Paul Geaney, James O'Donoghue and Tommy Walsh, who is sure to see some game time after the opening two league matches.

Belfast Telegraph