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Tyrone's fusion of old and new is ideal tonic for Harte

Gaelic games

By John Campbell

Tyrone have emphatically dispelled any doubts that their long-running love affair with the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup may be tapering off by scoring a whopping 4-40 in their last two games.

And this statistic alone is more than enough to once again propel Mickey Harte's side into the favourites' role to collect the trophy for what would be a sixth successive year. They face Fermanagh in Sunday's semi-final.

While Harte can take considerable comfort from the stunning scores recorded against UUJ (2-17) and Donegal (2-23), he is even more encouraged by the input of players from different ends of the spectrum.

Peter Harte has played over 100 games for the county while Ronan McHugh has yet to record a nap hand of starts in the Red Hand jersey yet both reflect the fresh dynamic that has been inculcated within the side.

Schoolteacher Peter Harte gave a masterclass in link play in Wednesday night's runaway win over what was a Donegal U21 side well out of their depth while in the same game Aghyaran clubman McHugh, totally unknown until he was given a few minutes of game time as a substitute in the O'Fiaich Cup, hammered in his second goal within the space of five days.

Manager Mickey Harte, clearly pleased that his team are settling into their stride once again, pinpoints what he feels is the reason for his side's arrival in the last four of the McKenna Cup.

"Obviously, like all other counties, we have been trying out new players in the McKenna Cup but I felt that until we were able to get some of our more seasoned, experienced players back then the new boys might not be able to express their full potential," pointed out Harte.

"We have been fortunate to get some of our more established players back again and now we appear to have a decent blend going forward."

Harte reveals that he is "more than happy" with the attitude which prevails within his squad and now that competition for places has been stepped up, he is looking forward to Tyrone's journey through Division One in the league.

And Peter Harte encapsulates the mood within the team when he says: "It is just great to be fit and healthy and playing competitive football in January. It's always an honour to turn out for your county and every match is a new challenge. We maybe did not get off on the right foot in the Dr McKenna Cup but now that we are in the semi-finals we want to take things on from here.

"We have a good record in the competition and would like to hold onto the trophy. We were disappointed to lose to Armagh in the O'Fiaich Cup final so we want to stay in a winning groove."

McHugh's scoring touch and the impact that other newcomers such as Declan McClure and Cahair McCullagh have made has served to convince Tyrone's vast army of followers that their restructured side could make a bold bid to retain their Ulster title.

Manager Harte had initially expressed the hope that his side might get the opportunity to play five matches in January - in other words, reach the McKenna Cup final - and this now looks a realistic goal for a team that clearly has the bit between their teeth.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph