GAA Football

Injury-hit Tyrone facing into anxious time but Peter Harte keen to get club title defence off to a flyer

7/1/2018 Tyrone's Peter Harte leaves the field after being shown a black card. Pic Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

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ALREADY sweating on the fitness of two key men, Tyrone are playing a high risk game ahead of their Ulster SFC opener against Monaghan.

The players have been released back to their clubs to play six rounds of league games ahead of the first defence of their provincial title on May 20.

Manager Mickey Harte has given his blessing to his squad members’ involvement in an intense spell of competitive action, but he’ll be keeping his fingers crossed that they all come through without picking up injuries.

Allstar midfielder Colm Cavanagh faces a race against time to recover from a quad injury, while Tiernan McCann’s damaged kneecap could keep him out of the Healy Park clash with the Farneymen.

But Peter Harte is determined to embrace the club scene and throw all his energies into Errigal Ciaran’s defence of the division one title.

“It’s full steam ahead now with the club leagues starting this weekend and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

“The opening month is going to be busy with six games down for decision but that is what you want to be doing, there is no substitute for playing football.

“We won the league title last season and it is going to be tough again this year as there is no such thing as an easy game in division one, they are all so competitive.”

Having wrapped up their League campaign with three straight victories, the Red Hands approach the Championship with a winning mentality.

However, Harte cautioned that opponents Monaghan are also immersed in positivity following their Croke Park win over Dublin.

“It was a great way to finish the League with wins over Donegal, Mayo and Kerry. It was badly needed given our position in the table, but I think that we all know that it is about the Championship now and that is where our full focus will turn to.

“It is a boost to have won our last two games at Healy Park but Monaghan on May 20 will be a different kettle of fish.

“They had a very good League campaign and the fact that they ended Dublin’s unbeaten run at the weekend says it all.

“Over the years they have always been tough opponents when it comes to the Championship and Malachy [O’Rourke] has done a great job with them.

“It is still seven or eight weeks away and a lot can happen between then and now but no doubt both sets of players will be eagerly looking forward to it and from our point of view it’s nice to get a home draw in the Championship as it hasn’t happened too many times in recent years.”

Tyrone’s counter-attacking strategy continues to evolve, and with 4-43 in their last three games, they appear to carry a greater offensive threat.

A 1-16 to 0-14 defeat of Kerry last weekend lifted them to fourth place in the Division One table, thanks to an impressive recovery following three defeats in their opening four games.

“Once again I thought we played some good attacking football and it was nice to finish with another good total,” said Harte.

“There are no such things as a dead rubber in county games as they are all important and there is no doubt that Kerry came up here to win.

“They played the better football for the opening 25 minutes or so and were full value for their lead but the spell just before half-time was crucial for us. We hit four unanswered points to take the lead and I’m sure they were wondering how they were behind at half-time.

“We began to get on top of them in the third quarter and once we got the goal there was a long way back for them. 

“Unfortunately we missed another penalty, but I have no room to talk about missing penalties and that is something that we will have to work on.”

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