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Peter Harte and Mark Donnelly lead changing of the guard

By John Campbell

If a battery of veterans form the spinal cord of the Tyrone side for tomorrow's clash with Monaghan, then manager Mickey Harte has not overlooked the enthusiastic claims of his emerging hopefuls to sample championship action.

For the best part of last year the left flank of the Red Hands attack comprised two gnarled warriors, Joe McMahon and Owen Mulligan.

Tomorrow both will be absentees and instead the spotlight will fall on Peter Harte and Mark Donnelly now that they have been handed a golden opportunity to cement their quest for regular recognition in the side.

Harte, who gained championship experience last year and who can play with equal facility at half-back or half-forward, is one of Ulster's most prodigious talents.

Skilful, quick and alert, he has already signalled his intentions of displacing the old guard while Donnelly gets the nod following some impressive performances in the recent National League.

In the build-up to tomorrow's match, several of Tyrone's senior players have acknowledged the growing threat that the young guns offer to their longevity in the side - Justin McMahon, Kevin Hughes, Colm Cavanagh, Dermot Carlin, Enda McGinley and Tommy McGuigan are just some of the more seasoned campaigners who won't be in the Red Hands' frame.

Mickey Harte, though, believes that his team is evolving and makes it clear that current form and nothing else will determine his selections.

"Reputations are important but current form is what selection is all about. Obviously there is healthy competition for places in the side and that's a good thing. Like all teams we have had our share of injuries and it's important that we have people who can make the step up when required to do so," he insists.

The elevation of Peter Harte and Mark Donnelly underlines the challenge that some of the more established players now face in their bid to get back into the side.

Midfield ace Kevin Hughes recalled this week that the 2008 championship got off on the wrong foot for him and his involvement in Tyrone's All-Ireland triumph was severely restricted as a result.

Tomorrow's match, while important for all the players, could prove a defining tie for Harte and Donnelly.

They go in against a Monaghan side that could prove vulnerable in defence and which may still bear the psychological scars from last year's humiliating Ulster final defeat.

Accomplished performances from the young Tyrone duo could see them figure more prominently in their team's bid not only to lift a hat-trick of Ulster titles but to press ahead for a possible fourth All-Ireland crown.

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