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Harte wants Tyrone players to prove worth in Cup bid

By John Campbell

Take nothing for granted in terms of your places — that’s the stark warning which has been flashed to Tyrone’s more experienced players by manager Mickey Harte.

The season is very much in its infancy but Harte has lost no time in making it clear that so-called experimental selections during the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup competition could yet provide longer-term benefits for his team.

“These players who have come in are not just there to keep the place warm for someone else. If they can prove they are capable of adapting to inter-county football, then they will have a good chance of staying in the side,” insists Harte.

Stephen O’Neill was ruled out of the Red Hands side for Sunday’s victory over Queen’s and it was new full-forward Jonny Lafferty from the Urney club who created a big impression, a factor in prompting Harte to give further insight into his selection policy.

O’Neill was just one of several highly-decorated Tyrone players missing from action in the McKenna opener with Joe McMahon, Kevin Hughes, Sean Cavanagh, Owen Mulligan, Ryan McMenamin, Pascal McConnell, Mark Donnelly, Conor Gormley and David Harte also among the absentees.

Now Harte plans to conduct in-house matches in order to assess overall fitness levels in advance of formulating his side for the forthcoming National League.

For next Sunday’s game against Antrim at Casement Park, Harte plans to run the rule over several players who were not in action against Queen’s.

“It is important that all players are monitored and that we have our strongest available squad for the league. Division Two will be highly competitive,” observes the Red Hands boss.

Ryan Feeney, the Ulster Council’s Head of Public Affairs, is optimistic that attendances at games could be the highest for some years.

“There was a great turn-out of fans for the opening round of fixtures on Sunday and this was undoubtedly triggered by the relatively mild weather. Fermanagh’s win over Antrim, the UUJ defeat of Donegal and the fine Down victory over Armagh are now big talking points and this all serves to raise the level of interest,” points out Feeney.

And he adds: “Teams now see the McKenna Cup as vital preparation for the National League and they are all anxious to hit the ground running.”

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