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Tyrone face real test against quality Monaghan, says Harte

 

By Declan Bogue

Despite the rumour mill suggesting that Tyrone assistant boss Gavin 'Horse' Devlin had departed the Red Hands set-up, manager Mickey Harte has declared himself amused at all the recent speculation as preparations begin for 2018 with the All-Ireland Championship draw made last night.

Tyrone have been granted a home draw for the first time in the provincial Championship since the visit of Down in 2014, when they face Monaghan.

It will be the fourth time in five years the neighbours have drawn swords in Championship football and things couldn't be any more claustrophobic with Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke an Errigal Ciaran clubmate of Harte's.

However, Harte has labelled as 'fake news' the claims that his assistant manager Devlin has left the Red Hands set-up.

"The only comment you can make is that there is the topical term 'fake news' doing the rounds," said Harte.

Pressed on whether Devlin will be there in 2018, Harte answered: "Absolutely. Absolutely. There was never any question or doubts about the fact he was going to be there. So somebody didn't do their homework very well when they went after that story."

On the future of his athletic development coach Peter Donnelly, who is also said to be in contract limbo with negotiations ongoing with the Tyrone county board, Harte added: "That will be sorted out, I don't think there will be any issue. It is being talked about at the moment but I think Peter Donnelly will be with us and there won't be any problem with that."

Devlin, who won two All-Irelands as a player for Harte, has been part of his backroom team for the past five seasons, but it was widely rumoured that he was to no longer be part of the management set-up. It was also said that Harte's Errigal Ciaran clubmate Enda McGinley and former Footballer of the Year Stephen O'Neill were to come on board as selectors, but Harte rubbished those claims.

"People were printing, writing or dictating stuff that they had not got the proper information to do so. I think people better check their sources a bit better before they start writing stories about things like that," he said.

Turning his attention to the Ulster draw, Harte will lead Tyrone's bid to become the first team from that county to secure three consecutive Ulster titles, but he knows it will not be easy against a side they have plenty of history with.

"Over the last number of years it's been Monaghan, Donegal and ourselves, and I suppose we sort of shot ourselves into that league over the last number of years and before that it was Donegal and Monaghan the top teams for a number of years," Harte explained.

"I think we have joined them as one of the top three in Ulster anyway. So to get one of the top three was not an easy task. But then again, when you look at Ulster football, who would you pick?

"You wouldn't say you would pick too many ahead of anybody else, but definitely I think Monaghan and Donegal would be two of the toughest ones you could possibly get."

Elsewhere, Donegal, under new manager Declan Bonner, have been handed a home draw in the preliminary round against Cavan. The winner of that tie will play Derry under their own fresh management of Damian McErlain. Gearoid Adams will face his old Antrim players in his new role as selector for Eamonn Burns with Down.

Fermanagh, with Rory Gallagher in his first year back, will have a home date against Armagh, those two sides in the same side of the draw as Tyrone and Monaghan.

For now, Harte insists he will concentrate on getting a solid pre-season and league campaign.

"I think you are aware in your mind what the draw is. It is always important to remember what the draw is and what the possible route to succeed is," he stated.

"So yes, it is there at the back of your mind. But that's where you have to keep it because there are too many things to be bothered about in the meantime.

"We need to get the pre-season competition up and running and get on the go again because the league is starting so early. And by the end of January we are playing Division One of the league and any of the teams in Division One, their mindsets are definitely on getting as many early points as they can because however difficult they are to get early, they are much more difficult to get later on and there is more pressure to get them later on."

He added: "You have to get yourself some kind of comfort zone in the first number of league games so you are not a relegation-threatened outfit. That's your target.

"Everything points towards the league at this time of year. The league is the important thing, especially when you are in Division One.

"That's going to focus our minds until the league is over and then we turn our minds to Championship."

Hurling no longer has a draw with the competition restructuring passed at special congress a few weeks back. Leinster will now be a series of round robin fixtures.

Munster will have five rounds with Clare, Tipperary, Cork, Waterford and Limerick all competing against each other.

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