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It'll be tough but we can taste more All-Ireland joy: Harte

Aiming high: Mickey Harte would love to clinch a fourth All-Ireland crown with Tyrone
Aiming high: Mickey Harte would love to clinch a fourth All-Ireland crown with Tyrone
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is preparing to bring the curtain down on what has been an extensive trawl for fresh talent as he steps up preparations for the 2020 season.

The triple All-Ireland-winning boss has attended most of the senior club fixtures within his county spanning the past month and believes he now has an up to date dossier on players who he believes will be in his squad for the new term.

But as the build-up to next weekend's Championship final between Errigal Ciaran and Trillick intensifies, Harte is still keeping an open mind in relation to what he sees as certain requirements for his squad.

Errigal Ciaran midfield ace Ben McDonnell, along with the exciting Darragh Canavan, are expected to enjoy a higher profile next year at county level, while Trillick's Richie Donnelly more than justified the faith that Harte showed in him this campaign and looks set to reach a new peak next year.

McDonnell, who has been outstanding in Errigal Ciaran's Championship run to date, is not only keen to see his club win what would be their first Tyrone title since 2012 but is also anxious to gain a regular berth in the county line-up.

"It's great that Errigal Ciaran have made it into the county final because this gives players another chance to impress if they can," said McDonnell.

"Obviously when you have people like Peter Harte and Aidan McCrory in your side, you have vast experience.

"And then you look at young Darragh Canavan and what he brings to the table. His goal against Carrickmore in the semi-final was a brilliant score and showed him at his best.

"But you have to consider too that Trillick have people like Mattie Donnelly and the Brennan brothers Lee and Rory who have also been doing the business for Tyrone. When you are getting to play in Championship matches, and especially in a final, it offers the chance to push for regular recognition at county level."

Tyrone boss Harte has made it clear that the selection door is still open and has indicated that every player will still have the chance to press his claims.

But he acknowledges too that his side face a major challenge in trying to achieve more success.

"I think fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you care to look at it, success in Tyrone is gauged by winning an All-Ireland title, and while I believe that we have the players capable of doing that, it's a work in progress and you have to build towards it," pointed out Harte.

"That is particularly so at this point in time when you have such a dominant force as Dublin sweeping all before them. I think if you were to take Dublin out of the script right now there could be a different number of teams that could be challenging for the All-Ireland title."

Tyrone county board spokesman Eugene McConnell, meanwhile, believes that the exceptionally high standard of games to date in the county Championship and the huge crowds which have flocked to them have provided firm evidence that the Red Hands will not be lacking in support when the new season come round.

"I think we have seen proof of just how fans savour our county Championship games," said McConnell. "And it's not just the followers here at home who enjoy the games. Seven of the matches in our Championship to date have been streamed live to five continents, 127 countries and 304 cities.

"That gives you an idea of the size of the global audience to which we are currently reaching out.

"We are looking forward to making our county final a very special occasion indeed and there is certainly tremendous interest in the game. Both Trillick and Errigal Ciaran boast a great pedigree at senior Championship level and they will certainly share a tremendous hunger to recapture the trophy at this time of asking."

Meanwhile, St Peter's Warrenpoint are leaving no stone unturned for what they regard as an all too rare appearance in the Down Senior Football Championship final in which they will meet Kilcoo on Sunday week.

A media briefing is being held today at the Whistledown Hotel at which manager Niall McAleenan is expected to give an insight into his team's surge from virtual obscurity into the limelight.

While Kilcoo, currently under the capable baton of former Slaughtneil boss Mickey Moran and his able lieutenant Conleith Gilligan, have been the dominant force in Down in recent years and will be competing in their eighth successive decider, St Peter's have to go back 43 years for their last final appearance.

Kilcoo, who were beaten in last year's decider by Burren after winning the silverware for six years in a row, will be red-hot favourites to come out on top, but this is not preventing St Peter's from following a rigid build-up to the game which is designed to elicit the best performance possible from their players in the showpiece.

Belfast Telegraph


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