GAA Football

Lack of goals no concern for Tyrone boss Mickey Harte as Donegal clash looms

Conall McCann's performance against Derry was no surprise to Mickey Harte but he wants the Killyclogher star to repeat it on Sunday
Andy Watters

TYRONE’S lack of goals is no concern for Mickey Harte going into Sunday’s Ulster semi-final against Donegal.

Harte’s side has found the net just three times in eight League and Championship games this year, but their tally of 22 points – from 11 different scorers – was enough to see them to a comfortable victory in their Ulster opener against Derry.

The Red Hands’ best chance of a ‘major’ that day fell to defender Aidan McCrory, but Harte is happy to follow the old GAA adage: ‘take your points and your goals will come’ against Donegal.

“It seems to be a concern for some people but not particularly for us,” he said.

“Any day you score 22 points in a Championship match at the venue of the other team isn’t such a bad performance. If you were to get 22 points every day you went out you probably wouldn’t be beaten very much.”

Donegal kept Paddy McBrearty and Karl Lacey on the bench in their Championship opener against Antrim and Harte expects frontman McBrearty to start on Sunday.

“You’d expect him to start for sure because he’s their key inside forward and he has a lot of experience,” he said.

“Karl Lacey is an issue of fitness levels. He’s at a different end of his career and it will be a question of – if he (Donegal manager Rory Gallagher) starts him does he last 70-odd minutes? Or will he hold him at a time in the game when there’s a need for composure, a need for experience?

“I can’t second-guess what Rory Gallagher is going to do but I’d be inclined to think that McBrearty will definitely start.”

If Donegal boss Gallagher has selection issues to sort out, Harte has them too. The veteran boss, a three-time All-Ireland winner, says picking a squad, nevermind a starting line-up, is becoming increasingly difficult.

“We have a decent squad and I’ve said that for some time now,” he said.

“A lot of newer, younger players have come in – some in their first year, others in their second or third. They are all getting experience and becoming better players, I’m quite sure of that.

“It is becoming a difficult challenge to pick, A, the first 15 and, B, the 26 who can be named on the day. That’s the most difficult challenge we have now, it’s a difficult one but it’s a good one to have.”

One name that looks certain to be on the teamsheet is Killyclogher clubman Conall McCann who was The Irish News man of the match against Derry.

“It was a very mature performance,” said Harte.

“He’s been with our panel for a few years now and, for a variety of reasons, he didn’t nail down a starting place. But he was there because he’s a good footballer, we like good footballers and we like them to get better and he’s going through that process.

“He had great qualities when he came in but he knew he had to add to those qualities.”

Harte added: “Sometimes people would like to get more game-time than they do and they have to be patient.

“But the secret is not to let that bother you and when your opportunity comes, be ready to seize it. That’s the real secret for somebody who thinks they are good enough to play in this game but maybe isn’t getting the game-time they would like.

“It’s about being ready when your chance comes and certainly when his chance came Conall was ready and he delivered a great performance.

“It was not a surprise to us – it might have been a surprise to other people - but we see more of these players.

“We see them at training, we see them in club matches and in our in-house games so we would be in a better place to make a value-judgement on exactly where their form is at any given time.

“We mightn’t always get it right, but we try to get it as near as possible and it’s great when you do pick somebody who’s a bit new to the scene and they have an excellent performance. The challenge now is to repeat that.

“People who make the breakthrough have to know that they’ll be more watched than they were and maybe more is expected of them.”

GAA Football

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