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Harte bids to oversee flight to safety for Red Hands

Survival aim: Mickey Harte is stepping up his efforts to ensure that struggling Tyrone remain in Division One
Survival aim: Mickey Harte is stepping up his efforts to ensure that struggling Tyrone remain in Division One
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The current break in Allianz Football League activity gives Tyrone manager Mickey Harte a chance to digest some unpalatable statistics but also offers scope for stoking a positive mind-set as the second half of his team's Division One campaign looms.

Marooned in the divisional basement along with fellow strugglers Cavan on just one point, the Red Hands need to make up considerable ground to cling onto their current status.

Yet Harte believes that what is perceived by many as a depressing situation is not irretrievable.

But the fact that a Monaghan side nursing the hurt of back-to-back defeats is next up for Tyrone tomorrow week has the manager convinced this could prove a make or break game.

"The fact of the matter is that we will have home advantage next Saturday for a match that has taken on considerably added significance," said Harte. "Monaghan now find themselves chasing points and we certainly need them too so we have to ensure that we make home advantage count.

"We did not do well there in our last match against Mayo so obviously Monaghan will not be too fearful of coming to Omagh. The beat on the street is that this is a crucial game and we feel we have a lot of points to prove."

Tyrone's fall from grace appears to be interpreted in some quarters as a tapestry of endless humiliation but this of course is far from the truth.

They may have been dealt some cruel blows in terms of the unavailability of key players but the gods smiled on them when they secured a draw against Roscommon from a fortuitous free-kick that to some extent compensated for the earlier banishment of Mattie Donnelly.

"It would have been an awful if we had been forced to go home without anything from that game," admitted Harte. "The fact of the matter is that if you're not among the top teams in the table, then you're battling against relegation and we're definitely there. We have been in this situation before but have managed to creep away from it."

The visit of Monaghan to Healy Park will pose the first of what Harte sees as four significant challenges for his side.

After they have renewed their rivalry with the Oriel County, they must then meet Cavan, Dublin and Galway - challenges that Harte believes will fully test the mettle of his team.

"It is going to be no easy job. Points are going to be hard to come by but that's where we are. We have to try and start somewhere to change our recent script and this match against Monaghan affords us the chance to do this," insists Harte.

Conor Meyler, Hugh Pat McGeary, Kyle Coney, Harry Loughran and Frank Burns are among the players who will be challenging for starting places against a Monaghan team that looked below-par in losing to Roscommon and Galway having surprisingly conquered All-Ireland champions Dublin in their opening league game.

Harte is certain to seek a much better return of scores from play as his side has tended to lean rather heavily on goalkeeper Niall Morgan and wing-forward Peter Harte for scores from frees.

"We have four matches to avoid the drop but I know what my players can do. Monaghan will come to us very eager to go home with the points, while we know we need to win if we are to up our revival. I think we showed persistence and quality against Roscommon and if we can repeat this and show greater accuracy then we will be in with a shout against Monaghan," adds Harte.

Meanwhile, two high-profile Ulster players have been chosen to serve on the National Executive Committee of the Gaelic Players Association.

Armagh footballer Aidan Forker and Antrim hurler Neil McManus will serve on the high-powered body which has gained increased influence of late - so much so, indeed, that there is now speculation it could perhaps seek a greater say in how gate receipts are distributed.

Forker, a schoolteacher, is one of Armagh's most experienced players and is well-known for his forthright views on a variety of topics.

He has captained his county in the past and sees the GPA as a vital mechanism in relation to player welfare in particular.

Neil McManus, meanwhile, has given outstanding service to Cushendall and Antrim hurling.

Only last Saturday he was a member of the Cushendall side which was just pipped at the post by Galway side St Thomas in the All-Ireland club senior championship semi-final at Parnell Park, Dublin.

McManus, a deep thinker about all things GAA, is highly respected throughout the country and could prove an influential figure within the players' body.

Former Cork hurling goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack has been elected as president of the players' body having stepped away as chairman in 2015.

Cusack has been a strong campaigner for what he sees as players rights and has provided dynamic leadership within the GPA.

And Mayo footballer Tom Parsons, who is recovering from a long-term injury, is the new secretary of the GPA.

Parsons incurred a serious injury last year which has kept him sidelined but he has remained active in campaigning for players' rights.

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