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Harte hopes rising stars can steer Tyrone to safety


Fresh talent: Mickey Harte has high hopes for his young guns
Fresh talent: Mickey Harte has high hopes for his young guns
John Campbell

By John Campbell

In overseeing the capture of three All-Ireland titles since taking charge of Tyrone in late 2002, Mickey Harte has rewritten the history books and is assured of legendary status in the annals of the Red Hand County.

In that time, too, he has been credited with building at least three different teams all of which have adhered to his well-chronicled football philosophy.

Yet 11 years have now elapsed since Tyrone last took possession of the Sam Maguire Cup and, because of the high standards he has set for himself, this is now viewed as a trophy famine of sorts.

Right now, though, rather than focusing on the ultimate glory with which he has become so closely acquainted during his stellar managerial career to date, Harte is in the process of extricating himself and his team from what is viewed as an uncomfortable position.

In overcoming Monaghan (1-16 to 0-12) on Saturday night to arrest a recent slide, Tyrone not only offered the hope that they can avoid the drop to Division Two but highlighted further evidence that Harte's meticulous team-building ability shows no sign of diminishing.

Liam Rafferty, Brian Kennedy and Ben McDonnell are among the young guns who Harte hopes will fire Tyrone further into the national spotlight when they meet Cavan in what is another must-win tie this Saturday night.

Depending on other results, victory here could usher the Red Hands into close proximity to those sides with aspirations of the league title.

"The players who have come in have been doing themselves justice," maintained Harte.

Conor Meyler, Declan McClure, Conor McAliskey and Harry Loughran form a quartet of players who would stroll onto most county teams, yet Harte could afford the luxury of deploying them from the substitutes' bench last Saturday night against Monaghan.

And in amassing 1-16, Tyrone scored almost half of what they had recorded in their three previous league games.

While the team has come in for criticism because of what has been perceived to be a reliance on frees for their scores, the fact that they landed 1-9 from play and featured eight different scorers against Monaghan indicates a rather more adventurous policy.

Meanwhile, Armagh have been given a boost in their bid to achieve promotion from Division Two now that Ethan Rafferty is back in the selection frame after a protracted spell out through injury.

The Grange clubman was introduced from the bench in the concluding stages of the Orchard County's win over Tipperary on Sunday but his return to full-scale action will be carefully monitored.

Assistant manager Jim McCorry said: "We wanted to give Ethan a run-out and he was glad to get back onto the pitch."

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