GAA Football

Substitutes making a major impact for Tyrone: Mickey Harte

Mickey Harte has praised the impact of his bench this summer

MICKEY Harte has acknowledged there are players on the Tyrone bench that are worthy of starting positions and name-checked Kieran McGeary’s excellent cameo display after Sunday’s famous Super 8s win over Donegal in Ballybofey.

McGeary is one of a number of players pushing for a starting slot ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Monaghan following the Pomeroy man’s 39th minute introduction.

The 2015 U21 All-Ireland winning captain reinvigorated Tyrone in their narrow Super 8s defeat to Dublin a fortnight earlier, scoring two points from play, and he caught the eye again in the side’s seven-point win over Donegal.

But McGeary is not the only one giving the Tyrone management team food for thought this week. Moy man Harry Loughran has bagged two goals from the bench in Tyrone’s charge through the All-Ireland Qualifiers and Super 8s, while Lee Brennan, Declan McClure, Ronan O’Neill and Mark Bradley have impressed too.

The latter did enough in his substitute appearances against Roscommon, Dublin and Cork to warrant a starting place last Sunday.

“Through the Qualifiers, we’ve discovered how important that is,” Harte said of his match-day bench.

“There are people who didn’t start the game [against Donegal] who are worthy to be on the team but they are also big enough to play for the team and come in knowing that they’re going to make a difference.”

Harte, though, may well be happy with the dynamic his bench brings and, barring injuries, he is likely to make minimal changes to his starting line-up for the Monaghan tie.

“If you started them, you wouldn’t be sure that the people that you would be leaving off could come in and make the same impact,” Harte noted.

“There are players who are good at that – obviously Kieran McGeary stands out as a really quality player at that particular role.

“But all the people we introduced gave us a contribution and that’s all we wanted off them, something to make a difference.”

Tyrone’s bench hit a combined 2-5 against Donegal to push them over the line. Since they lost to Monaghan in the Ulster Championship, Tyrone’s bench have amassed 5-18 in reaching the last four, with McClure, Ronan O’Neill and Loughran scoring heavily.

Meanwhile, team spokesman Eugene McConnell said last night there will be no update on the extent of Conor Meyler’s injury towards the end of Sunday’s compelling clash in Ballybofey. The Omagh half-forward appeared in agony with a calf problem.

Ronan McNamee came through Sunday’s bruising clash unscathed after suffering a shin/calf injury in the previous game.

“I have a game ready machine at the house,” McNamee said. “I must have spent about 100 pounds on ice this week. It's still not one hundred per cent, definitely not, but it got me through the game.”

Monaghan, who clinched their All-Ireland semi-final spot for the first time in 30 years with a comprehensive win over Galway last Saturday, were well worth their two-point win over Tyrone back in May.

But Harte feels both his and Malachy O’Rourke’s side have improved since that thrilling clash.

“I hope that is the case but I have no doubt that is the case for Monaghan too,” said the Tyrone boss. “They have not stood still from that time, they have found out things since then as well and were on the same journey as us only one round later. So I think we are coming into this on the same front.

“Both of us have improved from that Championship match but they were ahead by five points (they won by two) at the end of that so we have ground to make up on them.

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