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Harte is calling on his Tyrone charges to raise the bar

By John Campbell

Most managers who have watched their team collect 10 straight victories might be inclined to bask in the positives and view the immediate future against a backdrop of abundant confidence.

Not Mickey Harte, though. Such are the standards Tyrone's triple All-Ireland winning boss sets for his players that he now expects them to hit a new peak when they confront Derry in a crucial Allianz Football League Division Two round four encounter at Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday night.

Tyrone sit at the top of the table and are already regarded as favourites to claim one of the promotion slots on offer but Harte makes it clear that he expects more from his players.

"While the results have been pleasing to date, the performances have left something to be desired," reflected Harte.

"Against Galway our game management was maybe not what it should have been and in winning against Laois last Sunday, we did not control the game to the extent that we should have done and we were guilty of turnovers.

"We allowed them to get back into the game when we should have been pushing on. We tend to be our own worst enemies at times and we give ourselves some scary moments."

However, the Red Hands now find that they must approach their fourth showdown against the Oak Leaf side since mid-December under something of a cloud.

It is understood that highly-rated full-time strength and conditioning coach Peter Donnelly has tendered his resignation to the county executive.

Donnelly, who formerly played for the county and won All-Ireland senior medals in 2005 and 2008, is believed to be disenchanted with aspects of the executive's approach to player development on a wider scale.

Along with Gavin Devlin, he has helped to form an integral part of Harte's management structure and his loss to the county squad would be a blow.

Prior to returning to take up his current role with his native county 15 months ago, Donnelly worked with Cavan and played a big part in helping to hone the careers of many of the players who made the Breffni side a dominant force at Under-21 level in Ulster until Tyrone claimed the provincial crown this year before going on to lift the All-Ireland title under the management triumvirate of Fergal Logan, Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher.

Indeed, Coalisland clubman Donnelly has shared in no fewer than eight Ulster titles at U21 level, three as a player with the Red Hands (2001-2003), four as Cavan fitness guru (2011-2014) and Tyrone's accolade last year. It is believed that Donnelly's letter of resignation has been considered by county board officials but it is not known if it has been accepted.

A source close to the county board confirmed that he was at the county team training on Tuesday night at the Garvaghey Centre of Excellence where manager Harte mapped out his plans for the game against Derry.

Donnelly has been undertaking a considerable amount of work within Tyrone and is credited with helping to bring fresh talent through.

Harte, meanwhile, is strongly focused on seeing his side reach a new peak against a Derry outfit that clearly yearns to turn the tables on their neighbours and will once again be under the baton of coach Brian McGuckin as manager Damian Barton remains suspended.

Tyrone duo Colm Cavanagh and Conor Meyler are nursing knocks and could miss out.

The Red Hands had just two points to spare against Galway and won by a three-point margin against Laois but Harte is seeking more emphatic displays as the important closing phase of the league draws near.

"The game against Derry is a big test for us but they are all big games in this division," said Harte. "Any day you do not get two points is not a good day. While we are pleased to have won our three league games we know there are big tests to come.

"The fact that there are five Ulster sides in Division Two lends an extra dimension so you have to take every game on its merits."

Belfast Telegraph


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