GAA Football

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte unsure of fitness of Kennedy and McGeary

Derrylaughan midfielder Brian Kennedy remains a fitness doubt for Tyrone ahead of meeting Donegal this Saturday.
Pic Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

TYRONE manager Mickey Harte is sweating on the fitness of Brian Kennedy and Kieran McGeary ahead of Saturday's Ulster SFC semi-final clash with Donegal.

McGeary has not played in the current series while exciting newcomer Kennedy missed the quarter-final win over Antrim – both struggling with hamstring problems.

"We would be happy that they are progressing well but we won't know until this week is over have they progressed enough to be where we need them to be," said Harte.

"Certainly we are more optimistic than we have been for the last couple games anyway that they will be able to play some part."

Should the pair come through fitness tests, the Red Hands will be at full strength for the first time this season.

"Everyone else came through fairly well. There was only a few niggles here and there but nothing too serious."

Kennedy has been the discovery of the season for Tyrone. The 20-year-old Derrylaughan midfielder made his National Football League debut against Kerry in Killarney on the opening day of the season on January 27, and grew from strength to strength during the campaign, helping the Red Hands to a third place finish.

And he was selected ahead of All-Star Colm Cavanagh for the Ulster Championship preliminary round tie against Derry last month.

However, he was forced off after just 19 minutes by the recurrence of a hamstring injury, and replaced by Cavanagh.

Kennedy missed out on the quarter-final rout of Antrim, but is ready to go again, giving manager Mickey Harte extra options in the middle third.

Cavanagh, who missed most of the NFL campaign after undergoing surgery on an eye back in January, got a first 70 minutes of the season under his belt against the Saffrons, and the availability of both men would present the boss with a selection dilemma.

McGeary has yet to make a Championship appearance this season, but has made significant progress in recovering from the injury that kept him out of the comfortable wins over NFL Division Four sides Derry and Antrim.

One of 10 members of the 2015 All-Ireland winning U21 side now in the senior squad, his energy and work-rate are immense assets, but match fitness is an issue. He has not played since March 24, when he performed a spectacularly effective man-marking job on Galway star Shane Walsh, who had been rampant in the opening half of the League clash at Healy Park.

The Ulster Championship has once again emerged as the most competitive of them all, producing a number of thrilling ties, including two extra-time thrillers involving Armagh, who will meet Cavan for a second time in Sunday's replay.

"Every team who sets out in the Ulster Championship is entitled to genuinely feel that they can progress. The history tells us that virtually every team has been in the Ulster final over the last decade or so," said Harte.

"That's the proof of the pudding with regard to how competitive it is, even though over the last while the three stronger contenders, in Monaghan, Donegal, and ourselves, have won it.

"You can see the re-emergence of Cavan and Armagh and even Down who were unfortunate in their game against Armagh.

"We also see how many Ulster teams tend to get into the latter stages of the Qualifiers, so it remains very competitive".

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