Three of Tyrone’s most decorated players have fixed their sights on starting places against either Donegal or Cavan in the Ulster senior football championship semi-final on June 26.
Select target: The vastly experienced Owen Mulligan is hoping to earn a starting place for Tyrone against either Cavan or Donegal
Owen Mulligan, Joe McMahon and Kevin Hughes were not included in manager Mickey Harte’s first-choice side for the |0-13 to 0-11 victory over Monaghan on Sunday but the trio are now targeting maximum game time in the last-four meeting.
Mulligan gave way to Mark Donnelly at the weekend while a slight hamstring problem precluded the involvement of Hughes from the outset. McMahon has only recently returned to full training following the serious jaw injury he sustained while playing for his club Omagh St Enda’s against Moortown.
Harte should now find himself with more options as he prepares to step up Tyrone’s bid for what would be a third consecutive Ulster crown.
Justin McMahon is understood to be still out of the equation although his return to the side would undoubtedly be welcomed given his cool authority at full-back.
Mulligan and Hughes were introduced as second-half substitutes against Monaghan for Martin Penrose and Aidan Cassidy although Hughes was only on the park for seven minutes in all.
In contrast, Mulligan was pitched into the action in the 56th minute and almost immediately struck a fine point from play.
Penrose had been held scoreless from play and although he landed two points from frees his penalty miss in the 39th minute after Donnelly had been fouled served to reinvigorate Monaghan.
The possible return of Joe McMahon to the Tyrone side would be viewed as a bonus given his strength, experience and versatility. Peter Harte, who lined out at left-half-forward against Monaghan, was substituted by Colm Cavanagh in the 43rd minute and given that McMahon normally occupies this role when available he could return against either Cavan or Donegal, although his lack of match practice could still militate against his chances of making the starting line-up.
It was Tyrone’s old guard — Brian Dooher, Ryan McMenamin, Conor Gormley, Sean Cavanagh, Brian McGuigan, Stephen O’Neill and Davy Harte — that helped to underpin the win over Monaghan.
And with Mickey Harte having again gone on record to say that age is no barrier to selection, he might just decide to beef up his side even further for the provincial semi-final.
Harte, still as meticulous and thorough as ever, will dissect Sunday’s Cavan v Donegal quarter-final at Kingspan Breffni Park as he continues to focus on yet another Ulster crown.
Donegal have already beaten Antrim but this will be Cavan’s first match in the competition.
Their manager Val Andrews believes that the impetus via the progress made by the county’s Under 21 side will bolster hopes for Sunday.
But even though they were not particularly impressive in overcoming Antrim in their first game, Donegal will be favourites to make it into the semi-final, although manager Jim McGuinness still has concerns about the fitness of skipper and full-forward Michael Murphy who has a leg infection.