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Mickey Harte glad that Tyrone have yet to hit their peak

By Declan Bogue

In assessing Tyrone's win over Meath in last Saturday's miserable encounter at Healy Park, a few things have to be noted.

Tactically, Mickey Harte produced a masterclass which went unheralded. For the first half, he played a second half-back line with Barry Tierney, Rory Brennan and Richie Donnelly in the positions that half forwards formerly lined out in.

They laid deep and invited Meath on. It took the Royals 29 minutes to land their first score and although they reeled a few off at that stage, the physical toll it took was immense.

Knowing that the game would open up, Harte sent on Darren McCurry and Tiernan McCann for the second half. No time to spot the sub coming on and prepare accordingly for Meath manager Mick O'Dowd.

McCann produced his best ever performance in a senior jersey, picking up breaks and driving towards the 'D', winning frees and the decisive penalty, converted by Peter Harte. Strategy is not a problem, but personnel might be causing Harte concerns. They are not bringing the ball out of defence fast enough.

The inclusion of Mark Bradley as the attacking pivot is addressing this, but there is not enough overall dynamism in general.

"We are still in this Championship but I don't think anyone will be shaking in their boots if they were watching our performance," said Harte in his reflections.

"You don't prove anything on days when you win pulling up. You only prove your worth on days like this when things are difficult."

A trip to Tipp might be just what this team need; a chance to get out of Healy Park, which has not been kind to them this season. They'll have an overnight stay to gel the team together and allow for team meetings in an unhurried environment without players keeping one eye on the clock.

A little bit of the fall-out over the All-Ireland Under-21 final will colour this game and both sides will feature enough of those squads to make it a live issue, no matter how much it is played down.

However, Tipperary must carry more than a little trepidation. This is exactly the sort of draw in which a statement win can be delivered, but it might be coming at the wrong time.

Stephen O'Brien's injury robs them of someone who could mix it in the middle with Colm Cavanagh. George Hannigan has been out injured for most of the year.

Colin O'Riordan played in the Under-21 hurling defeat to Limerick on Thursday night and looked tired as the game wore on, while their two league matches against Ulster sides in Armagh and Fermanagh ended in defeat.

Tyrone can win, and are hoping it can act as a springboard to liven up a rather flat season.

Harte has his own theory, stating: "It wouldn't really be clever to be playing at the top of your game right now because everybody knows it's very difficult to sustain that over a longer part of the season. If you hit peak form too early, then that can be a worrying thing as well, but I don't think we have to worry about that particular problem."

All will be revealed in time.

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, Joe McMahon, P Harte; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; T McCann, M Bradley, R Brennan; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey.

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