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Harte thrives on early bonus as new recruits bid to make impact

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has just been handed a timely New Year boost.

As the triple All-Ireland winning boss prepares for his team's opening game of the new season against Antrim in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section A at Healy Park, Omagh tomorrow night (8pm), Harte is discovering that competition for starting places in his line-up is already being stepped up.

It is understood that recent Red Hands' training sessions and Sunday's match between the TTM All-Stars and Errigal Ciaran have provided Harte with fresh food for thought as his initial target of retaining the McKenna Cup for what would be a seventh successive year comes into sharper focus.

Brendan Burns, Michael McKernan and Ciaran McLaughlin are among the new kids on the block who will be pushing for regular selection while Ben McDonnell has been winning acclaim for his performances with Errigal Ciaran.

With Declan McClure, Kieran McGeary, Conall McCann and David Mulgrew having stamped their imprint on his side in 2017, Harte is hoping others can follow in their footsteps in 2018.

"It's encouraging to see new players putting their hand up as this serves to lend a more competitive edge to training and can obviously benefit us," points out Harte.

His side may have suffered an embarrassing setback in losing heavily to Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-finals last August but Harte is determined that they should atone for that lapse this year.

However, he is taking things one step at a time as the decks are cleared for a McKenna Cup competition that will take place within a more condensed period to facilitate the start of the league on January 27/28.

Belfast Telegraph