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Flexibility is pivotal to Tyrone's hopes of progress: Harte


Tyrone manager Mickey Harte
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte could be forgiven should he permit himself a wry smile as suggestions that his side might retreat into a more defensive shell now that the All-Ireland Championship moves into overdrive do the rounds.

As his team prepare to face Cavan in a fascinating all-Ulster Round Four qualifier at the weekend, Harte remains unmoved, preferring instead to focus on what he views as a crucial encounter carrying as it does a passport into the Super 8s.

When Tyrone opted for a more positive, attacking approach after a dismal start to the league, this carried the side along on a wave of optimism until Donegal whipped the mat from under their feet in the Ulster semi-final.

It was then the initial rumblings were heard that the Red Hands might revert to type, although wins over Longford and Kildare since then should have dispelled that theory.

All the more so given that Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte and Cathal McShane, the three players at the core of Harte's offensive policy, scored 0-15 of the team's total of 2-22 in the eclipse of Kildare.

Harte has since made it clear that flexibility will underpin his strategy for the clash with Mickey Graham's side, who are determined to rap out a message of defiance following their Ulster final defeat to Donegal (1-24 to 2-16).

"Flexibility is the name of the game. The ability to change when change is needed is central to how we play depending on the nature of any contest," insisted Harte.

Cavan may have failed in their bid to lift their first Ulster title since 1997 but it seems a safe bet that not too many teams will score 2-16 against Donegal in the remainder of the Championship.

Certainly, Breffni boss Graham, far from being apprehensive about facing Tyrone, positively embraces what he sees as a seminal challenge for his side.

"This year to date we have beaten teams whom we would have encountered difficulty in getting over in the past like Monaghan and Armagh and we beat Roscommon, who won the Connacht Championship, in the league," pointed out Graham.

"For all that, we have the height of respect for Tyrone. They have shown themselves to be a very formidable force in the qualifiers in recent years."

Cavan skipper Dara McVeety is convinced that Tyrone can help to bring out the best in his side.

"While it was great for us to get to the Ulster final, the fact that we did not win it was a disappointment," said McVeety. "The test for us now is to reach the Super 8s. Tyrone beat us in the qualifiers by three points last year and we hope to overturn that result this time round."

Round Four Qualifiers Draw

Cavan v Tyrone

(Saturday, Clones, 5pm)

Cork v Laois

(Saturday, Thurles, 5pm)

Galway v Mayo

(Saturday, TBC, 7pm)

Meath v Clare

(Sunday, Portlaoise, 2pm)

Winners of Galway v Mayo and Meath v Clare will join Donegal and Kerry in Group One of the Super 8s

Winners of Cavan v Tyrone and Cork v Laois will join Dublin and Roscommon in Group Two of the Super 8s

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