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Tyrone veterans at career crossroads

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has already confirmed that he will remain at the helm for his 14th season – but some of the stellar players who have brought unprecedented success to the county under his command may be absent from front-line duty in 2015.

It has been clear this year that Father Time has been exacting a toll on some of the Red Hands' venerable foot-soldiers and further evidence of this was forthcoming in Sunday's unexpected loss to Armagh.

And yet sweeping generalisations into the longevity of a galaxy of triple All-Ireland winners must of necessity be studiously avoided.

At 34, Conor Gormley made a huge contribution defensively against an Armagh attack that functioned better as a unit than it has for some time.

Sean Cavanagh, too, is on the wrong side of 30 but he continues to normally prove an inspirational force in the side and as captain this year never set anything less than a splendid example.

But recurring injuries have been exacting a heavy toll on Joe McMahon and Stephen O'Neill in particular while Justin McMahon and Martin Penrose are showing signs that they are in the twilight of their careers.

Tyrone were without the normally influential Peter Harte on Sunday; Mattie Donnelly, who has been one of their most consistent players this year, was dismissed in the first half and over the course of the game their attack managed just two points from play.

These are salient factors but the bottom line is that manager Harte might have to think outside the box in terms of amending his side for next year.

There is a feeling within Tyrone that he has gone to the well too often in relation to his much-decorated veterans and with other counties now having formulated tighter defensive mechanisms, the Red Hands have been finding it difficult to tot up scores in meaningful matches.

They may have destroyed Louth in the qualifiers and got the better of Down in the Ulster championship after a replay but even in those games the team's tendency to concede rather too much was obvious.

"We gave it our best against Armagh but they played a good game and it was enough to beat us," said a dejected Harte after the game.

"We weren't good enough to win the match and that's it."

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