Canavan happy with Harte's new Tyrone blend
MICKEY Harte's formula of blending youth and experience has received the seal of approval from Tyrone legend Peter Canavan.
Tyrone do battle with Roscommon this afternoon for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals next Saturday against Dublin and the former captain reckons the pieces of the jigsaw are fitting nicely together at the right time of the season.
Harte has been slow in introducing new faces from the successful underage set up in the county, which is in stark contrast to his opposite number this afternoon, Fergal O'Donnell.
Roscommon's lack of depth when he took over meant the county's 2006 All-Ireland winning minor team were rushed into the senior side and now form its backbone.
In Tyrone, the depth is such that the young guns have had to wait to get their chance, but Canavan reckons they are starting to shine.
"The younger men are starting to find their feet," he said. "I think Mickey now knows he has serious options, serious competition and he is reserving a couple of the stalwarts for roles as impact subs and this seems to be working well.
"The string of competitive matches in such a short space of time seems to suit Tyrone. It has served them well in previous years and we'd like to think we are coming good at the right time.
"It was going to have to happen because Brian Dooher can't go on forever, Kevin Hughes can't go on -- all these boys are coming to a stage. These younger men have to be blooded and it's better that they are blooded in twos and threes rather than just bringing in seven or eight lads at the one time.
"A lot of the younger boys are going to have to be patient. We'd like to think we are starting to get the right blend, but you'll only know that when you play against one of the top five or six teams and, with the exception of Donegal, the teams we have played wouldn't be in the top 10."
Canavan believes that introducing the likes of Dooher late in games is the best way of utilising his talents: "A lot of those (older) men started against Donegal and probably when they were needed most, they weren't there, they didn't have the legs. If you want Brian Dooher on the pitch, the last 15-20 minutes are the best to have him on -- the same with the others."
Canavan is confident of Tyrone's ability to see off the Connacht side this afternoon, although he envisages as improvement in O'Donnell's side from their wretched Connacht final display.
He is concerned, however, that a rematch with the Dubs -- who ended their interest last season in the last eight -- might prove a distraction to the Red Hand men.
"The only danger now is that the general public are talking about a Tyrone-Dublin All-Ireland quarter-final. The Tyrone players would not want to fall into that trap, because it's Roscommon they are playing and they are very much a team on the up," he said.
"They work very hard for each other and they have an excellent manager and an excellent set-up. They will have a bigger midfield pairing than Tyrone and with the dry ball, in particular, they are excellent fielders. So, I don't think Tyrone can be in a position where they are overlooking Roscommon, definitely not."