Harte boost offers Coney a spur to flourish again
A ringing endorsement from Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has provided a timely fillip for Ardboe clubman Kyle Coney as he focuses strongly on securing a regular place in his county's starting line-up.
It was in the aftermath of the Red Hands' Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final win over Down on Sunday that Harte singled Coney out for praise and now the long-serving player is hoping to become part of the fabric of the side again.
In the 3-18 to 3-15 win over Armagh, Coney led the Tyrone scoring blitz, while against Down he fulfilled the role of playmaker by dropping deep.
Now the 30-year-old utility player is hoping to justify the faith that manager Harte has shown in him.
And for Coney there has to be a touch of deja vu in relation to his current situation.
He was axed from the Red Hands squad following the Dr McKenna Cup in 2015 and was not brought back until the same competition in December 2018 when he turned in a man of the match performance in Tyrone's win over Derry.
He had a brief flirtation with Sydney Swans in the past but is now targeting further progress with Tyrone, beginning with Saturday's Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final against Monaghan at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (7.30pm).
"Tyrone boast a great record in this competition under Mickey and obviously we would like to win the trophy again. We have won our last two games at the Athletic Grounds so we have no difficulty in going back there. Obviously Monaghan will be keen to make an impact," stated Coney.
But while Harte can certainly take plus-factors from his team's performances to date in the McKenna Cup, the serious injury sustained by Michael McKernan while playing for Ulster University last Sunday and the imminent departure of Cathal McShane for a training stint with Adelaide Crows have impacted on the Red Hands squad.
The Tyrone absentee list is now lengthening and Harte is hoping that further injuries or defections can be avoided in advance of the Allianz League getting under way.
Incidentally, the Red Hands will be confronted by a familiar face at Saturday night's Cup decider.
Former Tyrone strength and conditioning coach Peter Donnelly is currently fulfilling a similar role with Monaghan, while Kilcoo joint skipper Conor Laverty is also part of the management team.
Laverty will be excused duty with the Oriel side, though, as he will be focused on Kilcoo's All-Ireland Club final on Sunday.
Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney is expected to finalise his side for Saturday's final tomorrow night. It is anticipated that he will include a fusion of experienced players and relatively new recruits.