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Mickey Harte challenges his key stars to deliver greater consistency


Captain fantastic: Sean Cavanagh lifts Tyrone's third consecutive McKenna Cup last night

Captain fantastic: Sean Cavanagh lifts Tyrone's third consecutive McKenna Cup last night

Captain fantastic: Sean Cavanagh lifts Tyrone's third consecutive McKenna Cup last night

Three McKenna Cup triumphs would be more than enough to have the vast majority of managers dancing a celebration jig.

But Mickey Harte tends to specialise in setting the bar that little bit higher both for himself and his team – and he expects it to be raised much higher than it was last night.

Even as skipper Sean Cavanagh was taking delivery of a piece of silverware which has become Tyrone's sole property of late, Harte was dissecting a performance that he described as "patchy".

The Red Hands boss certainly did not mince his words in assessing a display that while high on effort may have been lacking in poise.

"I thought that we played some good football in spells but that sort of performance certainly would not do in Division One," declared Harte, his focus clearly on Tyrone's appetising clash with Kildare on the week-end after next.

"While we are delighted to see players get game time, it is important that we achieve more consistency during games and we did not do that.

"Cavan made things very difficult for us, especially in the first-half, and it was only in the closing phase that we managed to pull away from them. We were patchy to say the least."

Harte's side showed a plethora of changes from the line-up that accounted for Mayo in the league on Sunday week last, but the manager is still keen to see competition for places stepped up.

"We have players who are back in now and doing quite well but the big challenge for us comes when the league resumes.

"We are pleased to have got five matches in the McKenna Cup because this has helped us in bringing players on. Such matches are better than all the training sessions under the sun and I believe that the competition has once again served a very useful purpose as far as we are concerned," added Harte.

Midfield ace Niall McKenna, whose work-rate and distribution had much to do with his team's success, believes that the rich selection options which Harte has at his disposal will prove a major bonus for the rest of the league.

"While it's great to get another McKenna Cup medal, there is no doubt that our strong focus is now on the league," maintains McKenna, who scored a spectacular second-half point that helped to keep a significant distance between the sides.

"There are more players coming back now and boys like P J Quinn, Kyle Coney, Plunkett Kane and others were given a return to action in this game against Cavan and they have, like the rest of the boys in the squad are doing, shown a great hunger."

Skipper Cavanagh, who will be in the Ulster squad for Sunday's Inter-provincial championship final against Connacht, is adamant that Tyrone's winning streak since the start of the year provides an incentive for the players to strive to maintain the high standards they have set themselves.

"We are not always going to get things just right because teams are well organised now and can make things awkward for us. But when we are on song we can be very good," contends Cavanagh with more than a hint of understatement.

Cavan manager Terry Hyland left the Athletic Grounds certain as to just why his team had lost the game after they had looked impressively sharp in the first-half.

"Tyrone are a Division One team and we are a Division Three side, that's the big factor," said Hyland.

"They were faster and more physical. You would have to say too that we tended to make things easy for them on occasions by the manner in which we conceded possession."

Hyland, though, insists that his players can derive benefits from last night's outing.

"They will have seen what it takes to compete against the best teams and remember that Tyrone were far from having been at full-strength," he added.

Man of the match Cian Mackey, who worked tirelessly for Cavan, said his team were "gutted" to have lost.

"We put in a huge effort and have nothing to show for it. But hopefully we will learn from this experience.

"Our manager would maintain that are a work in progress and maybe this game underlines this to a large extent," stressed Mackey. "But that does not disguise the fact that we are gutted."

Belfast Telegraph