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Mickey Harte has plenty to work with

McMenamin believes injury worries will only open the door for others

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone may be forced to dig deep into their playing pool for this Sunday's qualifier game against Armagh (throw-in 3.30pm), with up to half their defence doubtful for the match.

A round of league fixtures on Friday night produced a horror show of injuries for Mickey Harte's side.

Peter Harte broke his wrist while playing for Errigal Ciaran against local rivals Augher.

Corner-back PJ Quinn, who came in for only his third start of the year and impressed against Louth in their thumping win, injured himself against Carrickmore while playing for Moortown.

On top of that, it is believed that Mattie Donnelly, their pivotal centre-back who has emerged as the leader of the defence, is currently struggling, having tweaked his groin.

However, former All-Star defender Ryan McMenamin believes that Tyrone are well-stocked with replacements for any vacancies ahead of Armagh's visit to Healy Park.

"It's going to open the door for PJ Lavery or maybe Dermie Carlin," the Dromore man said.

"I think Dermie had a great league game against Strabane and scored a goal. With Petey out, he could go with PJ or Dermot, or if he wants to go another way with Conor Gormley."

Looking down through their matchday panel for the Championship defeat to Monaghan, Harte is spoiled for choice in both lines.

Danny McBride has already gained Championship experience this year and is an option for the full-back line, while Ronan McNamee could switch into the corner in this instance.

Justin McMahon is also expected to challenge strongly for a starting place having missed out on the Louth game. Barry Tierney is another viable option.

Further out, Justin McMahon began life in the half-back line and could plug a gap. Tiernan McCann began brightly against Down in the Championship but was withdrawn just before the half hour mark with a hamstring injury.

He is back fit and in full training and will come into contention.

Another idea might be to withdraw Ciaran McGinley from wing-forward to wing-back, where he spent all of last year. This would then open up a space in the half-forward line.

Kyle Coney hit seven points for Ardboe against Coalisland in a top-of-the-table clash and would offer a much greater scoring threat. Niall McKenna also impressed in Donaghmore's league game when up against the Cavanagh brothers playing for the Moy.

After their league campaign, the case for Tyrone's defence has been flimsy. For the last two seasons Tyrone have dispensed with the sweeper system, preferring instead to rely on hard-working wing-forwards to prevent defenders building attacks.

In the immediate aftermath of the heavy league defeat to Kerry in Killarney, Mickey Harte was forced to confront the issues around Peter Harte at centre-back. Since that game, Mattie Donnelly has been repositioned at centre-back from full-forward.

With a half-back line of McNabb, Donnelly and Harte, there is plenty of daring and adventure but little cover, something noted by Tomás ÓSé's recent stint on the Sunday Game highlights show. He ran a number of clips that showed Tyrone breaking into attack, with all three rampaging forward at the same time.

That leaves them extremely vulnerable against counter-attacks and as a former defender himself, McMenamin will tell you there is nothing forwards thrive on more.

"I think the best example we saw was Kerry's forwards against Cork," he says of Sunday's Munster final, and the 0-24 to 0-12 victory for the Kingdom over the Rebels.

"The space in front of the full-back meant that two of the very best defenders in Eoin Cadogan and Michael Shields were destroyed.

"Tyrone's half-back line has caused them problems all year whenever they have been turned over. Maybe he thinks it's time to shore up and get cover for the full-back line."

While McMenamin went along to see Tyrone's win over Louth, his assessment of it is "a waste of time."

"Once Tyrone got the goal, that was it, it was damage limitation for the rest.

"Against a team with a better forward line than Armagh, Tyrone could be in trouble."

Now that the opposition is settled on Armagh, it's the type of game that you can't imagine kick-starting something for either side.

Either way, you imagine the blood will be pumping in either dressing room.

"It's a game that Tyrone will have to be up for," McMenamin warns.

"Armagh being the rivals they are, it might be a good time to play them given they lost a big game on Sunday.

"It works in Tyrone's favour, they will have to be confident and well up for it, especially Sean and Colm Cavanagh."

Belfast Telegraph


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