GAA Football

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte says injury risks are worth taking ahead of Ulster SFC opener

Francis Mooney

MICKEY Harte says he won’t be wrapping his players up in cotton wool ahead of Tyrone’s Ulster Football Championship opener against Derry later this month.

They have been turning out for their clubs, and will continue to do so for another couple of rounds of league games, despite the risk of injury.

Harte feels it’s a chance worth taking in order to maintain sharpness and match fitness ahead of the trip to Celtic Park on May 28.

The treble All-Ireland winning boss has never engaged in challenge games, and relies exclusively on the club scene to provide his players with competitive action.

“It’s one of those things, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. If your players are not playing club football, they’re not getting competitive, they’re waiting in the wings, they don’t know how much game time they’re going to get,” he said.

“So I think it’s best to be playing games, taking your chances that they won’t get injured. With the help of God they won’t, they have survived well so far.

“With two more rounds to go, they’ll have six rounds of the league played by the time we play Derry.

“So that’s great, there’s our whole squad will have six games behind them. You can’t beat that.”

There are concerns over Niall Sludden, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury for a number of weeks, but the manager is hopeful the versatile Dromore man will be fit to face the Oak Leafers.

“Niall Sludden is carrying a bit of a hamstring issue as well. He has been guarded in his care for it, and I think if it wasn’t the Ulster Championship coming up, you probably would see him playing some of his club football now.

“But he doesn’t want to take a chance on it, so I think he will be okay.”

Omagh duo Justin McMahon and Ronan O’Neill have also been troubled by injuries which forced them to sit out recent club games, but Harte has no serious worries over the pair.

It was O’Neill who torpedoed Derry’s Ulster title hopes at the same stage last year with a two-goal salvo in the first half at Celtic Park.

“They have been carrying injuries, but they’re not severe injuries, they’re just muscle type injuries that in time will be okay.

“I think they’re all going to be fine in terms of fitness, which is all good.

“I think anybody that has been playing regularly for us across the season so far, thank God, will all be able to be considered for selection.”

Skipper Sean Cavanagh, now in his 16th season in the county colours, was used sparingly during the National Football League, coming off the bench in a number of games, but Harte gave a strong indication that the treble All-Ireland winner will start at Celtic Park.

“Absolutely. He has earned the right to do that, and we had to ease him in with his game time.

“And I suppose when he came in to those games, he was making an impact.

“He is a quality player, and has such Championship experience, so, yes, we’ll see plenty of Sean Cavanagh hopefully in the first match, and I hope to see it in other matches too.”

ends

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