Changing of guard poses fresh questions for Harte
Published 29/11/2012 | 05:00
IN late 2009, Mickey Harte issued a stark warning to his Tyrone squad on what they could expect over the following season: "There will be no comfort zones. No hiding places. We all have things to prove. Success costs. We start paying now," he wrote.
Having won the Ulster title, Tyrone were coming off a season which would have been regarded as a success a decade earlier, but times had changed.
As defending All-Ireland champions, Tyrone were highly motivated to win back-to-back titles in 2009, but their bid ended in the semi-final when Cork overturned them, forcing the Red Hand into an honest admission.
"Cork was better, bottom line," wrote Harte. It was that reality which prompted him to talk of looking at six or seven minors from the 2008 All-Ireland winning team, flashing out a clear warning to the incumbent stars that they would face a big challenge for their places.
The response was mixed. Tyrone dropped out of Division 1 in April 2010 but retained the Ulster title before losing the All-Ireland quarter-final to Dublin.
Since then, they have twice lost to Donegal and been trimmed by Dublin and Kerry. This form was most unlike Tyrone and explains why Harte has no real option but to radically restructure the panel for 2013.
The big question is – should it have come much earlier?
Loyalty to a group that changed the course of Tyrone history over the last decade is understandable, but there have been signs over the last two seasons that the squad were no longer able to generate the powerful momentum which took them to All-Ireland glory in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
Now Tyrone face up to the reality that they have slipped well down the rankings list (they are as low as 20/1 seventh favourites for the 2013 All-Ireland title).
The question is whether they have emerging talent of sufficient quality to relaunch a new, successful era, following last night's confirmation of a squad overhaul by Harte.
Tyrone squad 2013
Pascal McConnell (Newtonstewart), Aidan McCrory (Errigal Ciaran), Conor Clarke (Omagh), Cathal McCarron (Dromore), Mickey Murphy (Galbally), Mark Donnelly (Carrickmore), Colm Cavanagh (Moy), Conor Gormley (Carrickmore), PJ Quinn (Moortown), Mattie Donnelly (Trillick), Joe McMahon (Omagh), Peter Harte (Errigal Ciaran).
Johnny Lafferty (Urney), Paddy McNeice (Coalisland), Ronan McNabb (Dromore), Dermot Carlin (Killyclogher), Martin Penrose (Carrickmore), Stephen O'Neill (Clann na nGael), Darren McCurry (Edendork), Ronan McNamee (Aghyaran), Ronan O'Neill (Omagh), Justin McMahon (Omagh), Kyle Coney (Ardboe), Sean Cavanagh (Moy), Stephen McNulty (Clonoe), Conan Grugan (Omagh).
Barry Tierney (Omagh), Plunkett Kane (Coalisland), Ciaran McGinley (Errigal Ciaran), Danny McBride (Strabane), Kevin Gallagher (Newtownstewart), Conor McAliskey (Clonoe), Dean McNally (Kildress), Niall Morgan (Edendork), Stefan Tierney (Errigal Ciaran), Tommy Canavan (Errigal Ciaran), Shea McGuigan (Ardboe), Sean Warnock (Greencastle), Tiernan McCann (Killyclogher).
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