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McGleenan under huge pressure to beat Harte once again

By John Campbell

The only manager to have put one over Tyrone boss Mickey Harte this year will attempt to repeat the feat on Sunday - but from a much less comfortable standpoint.

When former Red Hands ace Mattie McGleenan steered Cavan to victory over his native county at the start of the McKenna Cup, it was thought to be a portent of even better things to come.

But the Breffni side did not make the semi-finals of the competition and to date have garnered just a solitary point in a league campaign that has been uninspiring.

With less than a quarter of the year gone, McGleenan already finds himself under pressure as his side bid to haul themselves out of the relegation zone.

Yet the affable Eglish clubman retains faith in his players as he prepares for what is surely the biggest test of his county managerial career to date at Healy Park, Omagh this weekend.

"You can build on anything with a group of players who refuse to give up," said a defiant McGleenan - a ringing endorsement of what he feels is his squad's commitment and spirit.

But these qualities alone may not be sufficient to halt Tyrone's surge to what manager Harte hopes will be a place in the final.

In contrast to Cavan's travails, the Red Hands are currently bracketed with Donegal and Monaghan in second place fully aware that a win on Sunday will thrust them clear of Dublin at the top, at least temporarily.

Niall Sludden missed the win over Monaghan last Saturday with a hamstring injury and may be unavailable again this weekend while Lee Brennan is expected to be rested in advance of next Wednesday's Ulster U21 Championship meeting with Donegal.

A number of other U21 squad members are also in the senior panel but have not been in the starting line-up of late so their total focus will be on the provincial Championship.

While Tyrone entertain realistic ambitions of wrestling the title from Dublin, they will need to address some shortcomings as they bid to land the second most important trophy in the football sphere.

They have scored only one goal in three matches, they surrendered the initiative to 13-man Monaghan in the second half last weekend and they have been spurning rather too many scoring chances.

Following Sunday's joust with Cavan, the Red Hands face trips to Donegal and Kerry and will host Mayo.

Harte has made it clear that he expects more from his side against a Cavan outfit that has drawn with Monaghan and lost to Dublin and Donegal.

Harte stated: "We have got a real desire to get our home points this year and if we can achieve that then it's a big step towards retaining our Division One status.

"If we had played in the first half the way we played in the second half against Monaghan then I don't think we would have got the two points so we know what we have to do this Sunday."

It can be taken for granted that remaining in the top tier will be the very least Harte will expect from his side.

Already there is a strong school of thought that would suggest the Red Hands will cross swords with Dublin in the league final once again.

The Dubs have won two and drawn two of the four games they have played to date and their next outing is against Kerry on Saturday week, which will be followed by a home game against Roscommon on March 25 and their last scheduled match against Monaghan on April 2.

Jim Gavin's side have the little matter of attempting to set a new unbeaten record in their remaining fixtures to contend with.

Belfast Telegraph


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