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Previous victories count for nothing now: Kerr

Ulster SFC Semi-Final

Plea for caution: Michael Kerr
Plea for caution: Michael Kerr
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone chairman Michael Kerr is appealing to fans to "keep their feet on the ground" as the Ulster Championship tempo is racked up considerably.

Mickey Harte's side have already beaten Antrim and Derry on their way into a semi-final meeting with Donegal at Kingspan Breffni on Saturday-week, but Kerr is at pains to stress that this guarantees the team "precisely nothing".

And the Carrickmore stalwart makes it very plain that the Red Hands face a difficult challenge in an effort to end their provincial title famine.

"It's terrific to have the support of our fanatical followers but it's essential that everyone keeps their feet on the ground," warns Kerr.

"While we are delighted to have got over Derry and Antrim, we know that they could have been potential banana-skins.

"People were saying you had a Division One side going in against two Division Four teams but, when you look at both those sides and maybe Derry in particular, they have players who would be capable of playing for any of the top teams.

"When it was put up to us in the last 10 minutes against Derry, the players stood up to be counted and if we got an easier passage against Antrim, this still guarantees our team precisely nothing in terms of more success."

Tyrone have stepped up their preparations for their mouth-watering semi-final, with manager Harte conscious that Declan Bonner's side will offer a much more robust challenge this time round than they did when they went under to the Red Hands in the Super 8s last year (2-17 to 1-13).

"We were never going to get any plaudits for beating Derry and Antrim but we are into this semi-final against Donegal and it will be a real challenge," says Kerr.

"They have gained promotion to Division One, they have Patrick McBrearty back in harness, they are the Ulster title-holders and they have a strong ration of fresh talent in the side - is it any wonder we are treating this game with the utmost seriousness? The only thing we are guaranteed at this point in time is a minimum of two more championship matches.

"Obviously we want to take the more direct route into the Super 8s but I suppose you are better having two chances in a lottery than one!"

Having introduced six substitutes against Antrim last week-end, the Tyrone boss now finds himself assessing some interesting options for the clash with Donegal.

Experienced forwards Darren McCurry, Kyle Coney and Connor McAliskey all helped in steering the Red Hands over the final furlong in a game that had already been decided before the trio were introduced.

But Harte, typically anxious to keep competition for places razor-sharp, knew that this trio in particular would make strong statements of intent in relation to the possibility of securing starting places against Donegal and that's precisely what happened.

"Obviously players came on and put their hand up for selection in the next match and, while we put up a good score against Antrim, that promises us nothing against Donegal," insists Harte.

"Even though we are seen to be more offensive, you can't throw caution to the wind as you must keep an eye on defence. We conceded two goals against Antrim which we weren't happy about."

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