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Unfazed Harte embracing his growing leadership role with Tyrone

By Declan Bogue

Going back to when the late Eamonn Coleman managed Kildress to a Tyrone Intermediate title in 1978, there has always been a strong history of cross-pollination between Tyrone and Derry.

That tradition is continued right up to the current day, according to Tyrone's Peter Harte, which means there are no secrets when the cross-Sperrins rivals get ready for tomorrow's Ulster Championship quarter-final battle in Celtic Park.

"Both teams will know each other well because we live so close together. It's probably something you don't even think of anymore because you are so used to it. Ronan McGuckin was over us (Errigal Ciaran) for four years and knows us inside out," schoolteacher Harte said.

Tyrone go to Celtic Park seeking their first win in Championship football. The pitch is renowned for being narrow, which could play havoc with Tyrone's running game, although for the time being, Harte is not buying it.

"We've never played in the Championship in Celtic Park so it will be a new experience for us," he said. "But if you go in worrying about the size of the field or how close it is to the stands then you will forget all about the basics of what you are trying to do."

Harte was identified as one of the new leaders of this current generation of Tyrone players, along with Matthew Donnelly, by manager Mickey Harte.

With Sean Cavanagh having admitted that he might be in his final season of a 15-year career, the position of Red Hands captain could be up for decision over the winter. Peter could be in line to captain his uncle's side, and he shared his thoughts on how leadership is best expressed.

"I suppose it's a natural process," he said. "When we came into the senior squad we had All-Ireland winners sitting around us everywhere, it was hard to speak out when you had men around you who had done it all. That just takes time and your confidence begins to grow."

Only four senior All-Ireland winners remain in the current squad - the Cavanagh brothers Colm and Sean, and the McMahon siblings, Joe and Justin.

What the present squad do have is an eager group of All-Ireland winning Under-21s, and Harte's own group of successful minors. Together, they need to get onto the winner's podium sooner rather than later.

"Your career goes quickly and Championships go even quicker being a three or four game series. Tyrone haven't been successful over the last few years and if you look in the changing room now there is not many boys who have Ulster medals," he added.

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