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Dublin will be Tyrone's ultimate challenge, admits cautious Mickey Harte

 

By John Campbell

Tyrone may have played the kind of beguiling football that has made their supporters' hearts soar in recent weeks but manager Mickey Harte is nonetheless keen to ensure that the feet of all and sundry remain firmly planted on the ground.

With Dublin due to invade Healy Park, Omagh tomorrow in search of a win that would all but assure them of a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals, Harte reiterated his firmly-held belief that this will be "the ultimate challenge" for his side.

Impressive victories over Carlow, Cavan, Cork and Roscommon have settled the palpitations endured during the scare against Meath to such an extent that the Tyrone faithful are preparing to embrace what will be a fiery, emotion-soaked occasion with almost overwhelming optimism.

Harte, though, prefers to garb the build-up in a cloak of reality as his side bid to extend their thrilling momentum.

"Even in our most recent game against Roscommon, we know that what we conceded would not do at all this time," stated Harte.

"We have lots to learn from that aspect of our play, I feel. I was very happy with what we scored but equally unhappy with what we conceded.

"We have to be as mean at the back as we are prolific up front. However, it was good to overcome the kind of mini-storms we encountered in that game and still come out the other side."

It was in last year's All-Ireland semi-final that the Red Hands suffered one of their heaviest ever Championship defeats when Dublin proved their masters in an embarrassingly one-sided contest and with memories of that ignominious occasion still stark, Harte is hoping that the tables can be turned tomorrow.

But even though his side will have home advantage and the raucous backing of their fanatical followers, he still believes that they face a huge mission.

"There's no doubt about that," insisted the triple All-Ireland-winning boss. "Let's face it, we will be entering a different stratosphere. We have to be a lot better at many aspects of our play otherwise we will not be able to live with the way Dublin have been playing over the course of recent years.

"From our perspective, this is the ultimate challenge."

In their last two games against Cork and Roscommon, Tyrone have totted up a whopping 7-44 and while this statistic gives Harte grounds for satisfaction, he is acutely aware that his side might not find scores so easy to come by tomorrow.

"We know we are going to have to work hard for any scores we get and at the same time we certainly cannot give away too much. We want to try and play the game on the front foot if we can but we know that Dublin can be devastating if they are given time and space in which to operate," added Harte.

His side may in the recent past have been viewed as defensive, cautious or dull - and maybe a fusion of all three, indeed - but there is no doubt the Red Hands now embody style, artistry and adventure.

Dublin, bidding to land the Sam Maguire Cup for the fourth successive time, will come to Healy Park aware that a hot reception awaits.

Their taciturn manager Jim Gavin is aware that the template for victory which has served his team so well in the recent past might just require a little further enhancement.

Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, H P McGeary; T McCann, F Burns, P Harte; C Cavanagh, P Hampsey; M Donnelly, N Sludden, C Meyler; C McShane, R Donnelly, C McAliskey.

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