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Tyrone all Harte

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has insisted that he feels no temptation to deceive his county's supporters, or opponents Derry, in Sunday's Power NI Dr McKenna Cup semi-final at Healy Park.

With two vital league points to play for on February 2, the rivals across the Sperrins will grow familiar with each other over the next fortnight, but Harte refutes the temptation to hide his hand in any way.

"I really don't believe in that at all," said the longest-serving inter-county football manager, whose side have home advantage on Sunday courtesy of winning the toss.

"I think you go to win every game. The people that come to see us here in the McKenna Cup come to see Tyrone at their best and we will be at our best to try and win this match."

He added: "If we win it, great, and if we don't, we will certainly be able to tell the people that we did give it our best."

Derry have made clear their intentions over the winter. Taking part in the O'Fiaich Cup yielded a trophy to go along with the National League Division Two title won last summer. More importantly, they have been winning matches while pitching in youngsters and finding out about the depth of their panel.

"It will be the new way of Tyrone, versus the new way of Derry," acknowledged Harte.

"We would rather not be playing them considering we are playing them in the first game of the league.

"That's the way the cards have been dealt. They have been experimenting with quite a lot of players as well and they have been getting good results."

And while Tyrone find themselves in the middle of a serious streak of form, with 8-35 scored in their last two games, their manager puts that kind of startling run into perspective.

Harte explained: "It is encouraging but we wouldn't be thinking we are on our way to anything great, it's just good for this time of year.

"It's good to be getting the scores we are getting, and good to get players competing well."

Post-match interviews at this time of year usually follow a loose script. Managers will pick the bones over, pointing out things that went well and aspects of the game they can improve upon.

But where could Harte begin after his team handed Armagh their biggest beating – 5-16 to 0-7 – in competitive football on Wednesday night when 11 different players scored and they ruthlessly exposed some of the tactical switches that Armagh had been tinkering with?

He said: "It was one of those games that things happened well for us in the first half and when you hit a couple of goals in the first half and a few points to go with it, it's devastating.

"They had a few chances and never got them finished. But our players played very well and when you go in with an unassailable position at half-time it's all about consolidating it and I think they played very well in the second half considering they had such a good lead."

Asked about the spread of 11 different scorers, Harte commented: "The most pleasing thing about it was that the scores came from back to front. They weren't laboured scores, they were crisp and there was passing, good movement, good support play and good finishing.

"We will take that any day it comes. But it's the next match matters now, not that one."

With such form the temptation is to believe that management are holding players back in training, but Harte refutes that.

"We are doing what we do most years – the couple of nights a week on the field and the strength and conditioning.

"The good thing is we have a lot of players contesting for places, and a bunch of new players in this season," he said.

"There's more to be done but it's encouraging that they are going well at the end of the game, just as well as the first minute of the game, and that's the most encouraging thing."

Belfast Telegraph


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