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National League: Harte demands Tyrone make perfect start

Mickey Harte wants the barricades erected — and the first phase of the work is to be undertaken on Sunday.

The Tyrone boss, concerned that his defence has been leaking scores in the McKenna Cup to date, is urging that a much more frugal approach be adopted when the Red Hands confront Derry in their Division Two National League opener at Celtic Park.

Harte, never one to mince his words, leaves no one in any doubt as to his fears going into the league campaign.

“While all teams will enter the competition against a backdrop of optimism, it is a fact that if a side does not hit the ground running then it can suddenly find itself immersed in a relegation battle.

“Our aim will be to try and get back into Division One this year and we need to get points in the bag very quickly,” insists Harte.

While some of his more established defenders such as Justin McMahon and Philip Jordan have yet to appear in his team’s colours this year, Harte is prepared to give credit to some of the players who have come in and acquitted themselves well to date.

Full-back Cathal McCarron has been playing impressively while Damien McCaul has been showing good form having missed most of last year because of injury.

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“There are some new players in there who have been more than holding their own. They have set up a challenge to the players who were regulars last year,” said Harte.

Sean McNally, Dermot Carlin and Ryan McMenamin formed the Tyrone half-back line against UUJ last weekend — Harte was not happy with the 2-11 which his side conceded in that game — but it seems likely that the more experienced Davy Harte and Conor Gormley will be restored to the defence for Sunday’s mission.

Harte’s assertion that the league is “a different ball game” will brook no argument.

“Derry seem to be flying so we know what we have to do. While it’s good for us to be through to the McKenna Cup semi-final, the National League will be a priority task now,” adds Harte.

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