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Harte makes bold selection calls as the Red Hands battle to avoid trap door

 

By Declan Bogue

Mickey Harte spelled out Tyrone's task for their last three games in the immediate aftermath of defeat to Monaghan in Castleblayney two weeks ago.

"Well, every game is important as there is a target of a certain number of points that every team need, and they would suggest you need at least six to be safe," he said.

"We are four off that at the minute. It's not a good place we are in at the minute, but it is still in our own hands to affect that. Every game has a knockout status from here on in."

Those games he refers to begin tonight in Healy Park against a Donegal side also listing towards the bottom of Division One on two points, but coming out of the winter season with more favourable reviews.

This comes in a week when promising young player Michael Carroll and goalkeeper Peter Boyle quit Declan Bonner's panel, along with Eoin McHugh not committing for the year, though that has been offset slightly by the return of 2012 All-Ireland winner Anthony Thompson.

Harte has named a strong looking team and has given Padraig McNulty a chance to impress in the middle of the field, a move that may be designed to free up Matthew Donnelly to get on more ball than usual.

With Connor McAliskey, Mark Bradley and Lee Brennan all named in the full-forward line, it is a bolder selection than Harte has gone with in recent weeks.

The other game in the top flight involving an Ulster side comes with Monaghan looking to puncture Galway's 100% record.

Monaghan themselves have lost only once and a win here for Malachy O'Rourke's men could put them right in the hunt for a league final place.

The Oriel County have virtually guaranteed that they will play Division One football for the fifth consecutive year in 2019, one of the achievements that tends to be overlooked by the end of the year, but no mean feat given their resources.

There is an all-Ulster clash in Division Two that could go a long way to determining how either side will approach the last two games.

Cavan have been riding high since they snatched a draw on the first day against Clare, taking three consecutive wins.

They now face Down, who appeared to be gathering a little momentum until they were stopped in their tracks in Newry against Clare in the last round.

In a tight-looking second tier, Louth are pointless at the bottom, but Meath are just one point behind Eamonn Burns' men with a clash between them to come.

Another all-Ulster duel taking place is the meeting of Armagh and Derry tonight at the Athletic Grounds.

Derry have just two points so far, accrued against bottom side Offaly, and while they will not have any of their Slaughtneil players available after their club exploits, they need to pick it up to avoid dropping into Division Four.

Armagh have a 100% record and with last weekend's programme wiped out by Storm Emma, they have a few faces making a return from injury.

While they are coming in with good results on paper, their overall performances have been patchy in the last two games against Longford and Offaly.

The other side with an unblemished record in this grade is Fermanagh.

Rory Gallagher's men head down to Westmeath - who they beat in the 2012 and 2015 Championships - knowing that a victory in Cusack Park would go a long way towards securing promotion, with a home game against Armagh and a trip to Longford to come.

Belfast Telegraph

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