Harte and McCrory ruled out of Saturday's McKenna Cup final
THE Dr McKenna Cup final between Tyrone and Derry on Saturday will go ahead without some of Ulster football’s most well-known names on show.
Errigal Ciarán and Tyrone team-mates Peter Harte and Aidan McCrory are unavailable for selection as the Red Hands find themselves just 70 minutes away from their fifth McKenna Cup title in-a-row.
Harte and McCrory have been two of the first names on Mickey Harte’s team-sheet in recent years and both made starting appearances in Tyrone’s group phase win against their Oak Leaf rivals on January 10. However, neither played any part in last Sunday's convincing semi-final win against Fermanagh.
Their final opponents may also be missing a number of key men. Mark Lynch and Emmett McGuckin sat out Derry’s McKenna Cup semi-final against Cavan and manager Damian Barton insists he won’t be rushing them back from injury.
Lynch, who has a groin strain, had been listed to start at full-forward in their seven-point win against the Breffni men, but watched the game from the stands. Emmett McGuckin picked up a hamstring strain in training last Tuesday night and also missed out.
Barton said: “Well, they have [a chance of playing against Tyrone]. If someone has a bit of a strain, there’s not much point putting them out today if it’s going to cost you two or three weeks down the line.
"I’m happy and I know they’ll be happy to sit up there because it puts them under a bit of pressure as well, and that can only be healthy. There are plenty of players that didn’t get a chance [against Cavan] that I have the confidence to throw in. The guys around them have confidence, and that’s a very important thing to have.”
Video: watch highlights from the two McKenna Cup semi-finals
Meanwhile, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has rejected the notion that familiarity will breed contempt as Tyrone prepare to face Derry for the second time this year. The Red Hands met Derry in a feisty encounter in Section A 10 days ago and they will meet again in Saturday night’s final.
With an NFL Division Two meeting to come on March 5 and an Ulster Championship showdown scheduled for May 22, the counties will be familiar foes this year. While the first game was competitive, the intensity levels should increase as the year goes on, but Harte says the results in the first three meetings won’t affect the outcome of the Championship clash at Celtic Park.
“I don’t think it matters how many times you meet anybody, the Championship is the Championship and it takes on a life of its own” he said.
“I don’t think it would matter if you met them 40 times on the way, the Championship is a new game, there’s a new competitive nature about it and I don’t think that any of the games that go before it have any real significance on that day."
Meanwhile, Harte has backed the youngsters he has blooded throughout the Dr McKenna Cup to make an impact at inter-county level: “Everybody that came in has acquitted themselves well and they’ve shown that, if they’re not ready now for senior inter-county football, they certainly have a future in it,” he said.
“That’s the decision we have to make: who is ready to come in just now, who would benefit from coming in now and would some players maybe need some more time to go to their clubs and mature another little bit.
“They are the decisions we have to make - they’re not easy decisions to make. We have a few men with long-term injuries who aren’t available just now, so there may be an interim time when some of those players might have to stay on anyway to give us the full complement that we want to be competitive in our training.
“There will be some changes, but a lot of the players you’ve been watching over the last month or so will be here.”