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Harte: we won't be giving the Orchard an easy ride

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has moved quickly to dispel the theory that his side will drop down a gear now that promotion to the top tier of the Allianz Football League has been secured.

As he prepares to renew rivalry with familiar foe Kieran McGeeney when Armagh come to Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday night in a desperate quest for two points that might just provide them with a Division Two lifeline, Harte issues a stark warning that underlines his ambitions.

"We wanted to give ourselves the best chance of getting back into Division One and we knew the way to do that was to keep winning our games. We have now won five out of five, we have 10 points and this represents a really good start to the season for us," stated Harte.

"While being back in Division One could be said to be the icing on the cake, the important thing now is to build further on our winning habit."

Following the clash with the Orchard County, Tyrone will complete their scheduled league programme by visiting Fermanagh on Sunday week and Harte sees these next two games as an opportunity for his side to rap out their Championship intentions.

"While it's brilliant to have won promotion, a particularly pleasing aspect of our league journey to date as I see it is the manner in which we are getting a better mix and balance within the side," observed Harte.

"You can't depend on younger players to win the game for you nor can you depend on the older legs which have been round the block many, many times. They can't give it to you all the time. So, this being the case, we are very fortunate to have a middle blend of players who are rapidly maturing to become serious leaders within the side.

"I think we are moving in the right direction in terms of getting the right balance. Long may that continue and long may the results continue to keep coming in as they are doing."

He may have concerns over the fitness of Ronan O'Neill and Conor Meyler ahead of Saturday's game but such are Harte's resources that his side is unlikely to be weakened in any way should he be forced to make changes.

"I think we have versatile players in our squad who are not afraid to go forward and take scores and this is good. We wanted to give as many people as possible game time in the league so that they could become acquainted with football at this level," pointed out Harte.

McGeeney, meanwhile, could hardly have asked for a more demanding assignment than a visit to a red-hot Tyrone as he strives to plot a survival course for his beleaguered Armagh side.

He insisted: "We have two tough battles ahead of us against Tyrone and Derry. Obviously Tyrone are already promoted but we know they won't be taking their foot off the accelerator.

"Yet these are the kind of games that Armagh need to be in if they are to progress further. I genuinely believe we have good players in our side like Joe McElroy, Shay Heffron and Stefan 'Soupy' Campbell and it's a question of getting the right overall mixture and attitude."

Campbell has been particularly prominent lately and his stunning solo show against Galway in the team's last outing when he scored 1-9 ensures that he will come in for close attention from the Tyrone defence.

"Stefan is a very good player who is doing well for us and he will like this challenge," added McGeeney.

"He is a quality forward and has been doing the business for us for the past couple of years now.

"We have to try and get to a level where we are able to produce consistent performances week in and week out because that's what it takes to be successful."

Belfast Telegraph


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