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Tyrone defender McMahon calls time on career as Harte looks to future


By John Campbell

Mickey Harte has never been one to allow the grass to grow under his feet.

Scarcely had he been given the green light to continue in his role of Tyrone manager for another three years than he found himself coming to terms with the retirement of long-serving Justin McMahon, mulling over the appointment of a new captain, making arrangements to take in weekend club championship games and casting initial thoughts towards the composition of his 2018 squad.

"It's all in a day's work," he smiled, clearly delighted to be at the helm of Red Hand operations from now until the end of the 2020 championship season.

"There is work to be done and it's better to be getting on with it. While much has been made of our game against Dublin, the challenge for us is to show that we have the capacity to get to their level.

"People might say this is an impossible task but nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. I believe that we will be capable of coming back and reaching the level that is required. I can't say exactly when that will be but I believe we will be back and we will compete at that level."

It's a battle-cry that has already been enthusiastically endorsed by his players, many of whom were clearly shell-shocked by the ferocity, passion and spectacular skills that Dublin brought to the table in the recent All-Ireland semi-final.

While Harte now takes stock of his resources, he must do without the considerable presence of McMahon, who joins Sean Cavanagh in slipping into retirement.

Omagh St Enda's clubman McMahon made his debut in the Allianz League against Fermanagh in early 2007 and took his championship bow a few months later in the Ulster final against Monaghan, in which he won the first of his five provincial medals.

He went on to play a major role in Tyrone's All-Ireland success in 2008 and was subsequently named an All-Star for his performances during that season.

Harte, meanwhile, must now choose a new skipper to succeed Sean Cavanagh, and it would appear that Colm Cavanagh, Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly are the leading contenders to take command of the Red Hands side.

While they will continue to help form the experienced core of the Tyrone side, Harte may also unleash more fresh faces in much the same manner as he has successfully blooded players such as Niall Sludden, Padraig Hampsey, Kieran McGeary, Declan McClure and David Mulgrew of late.

These players in particular have made an impact in the Tyrone side and have more than justified the faith which their manager has shown in them.

If the setback against Dublin was a chastening experience for the Tyrone players, it was also a salutary lesson for Harte, who candidly admitted afterwards that Dublin were the best team he had ever seen.

Yet he is still driven by the challenge of attempting to knock Jim Gavin's side off their proud perch.

Mayo, of course, get the first opportunity to do that when they meet the Dubs in Sunday week's All-Ireland final.

And Harte believes it will take a massive effort if Mayo are to come out on top.

"People have been writing Mayo off all year and although they have been on the ropes so many times, they are still standing," points out Harte.

"They had two mighty contests with Dublin last year so I would be reluctant to discount their chances.

"But the standard at which Dublin played against us would certainly make them very hard to beat."

Belfast Telegraph


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