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UUJ's Tyrone links give Harte extra McKenna Cup incentive

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Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte will be afforded a rare opportunity to assess a generous raft of talent when his side confronts UUJ in Section C of the Dr McKenna Cup on Sunday in Omagh (1.30).

Not only will the players in the familiar red and white of Tyrone come under Harte's radar but with UUJ ready to start with as many as seven players from the Red Hand county in their side, this will ensure that the triple All-Ireland-winning boss is provided with confirmation as to the talent he has at his disposal.

When UUJ drew with Fermanagh in their opening match in the competition, Lee Brennan scored nine points from their total of 0-12 while Michael McKernan was a cornerstone of the defence, the Tyrone duo making a huge impression in the contest.

With the Tyrone squad having just returned from their holiday in Thailand, Harte is likely to give game-time to a number of fringe players.

Tyrone overcame Derry in their opening match in the competition last month and with Harte having already made clear his desire to recapture the trophy from Donegal, the fight for starting places in the Allianz League is gathering steam.

Darragh Canavan and Matthew Murnaghan were among those blooded against Derry but with players such as David Mulgrew, Darren McCurry, Ben O'Donnell, Kyle Coney, Ruairi Sludden and Conan Grugan anxious to nail down starting slots, UUJ can expect a hot reception at Omagh.

The new rules have certainly not found favour with Harte but he is nonetheless keen to see his side make as much headway as possible this month ahead of their league opener against Kerry on January 27.

"The way in which the McKenna Cup is organised gives us competitive football at this point in the year and that's why we always strive to do as well as we can in it," insists Harte.

"If you can get out of your section, it gets more competitive and that is to be welcomed. And if you reach the semi-final and maybe the final then you get two extra games which will always prove a big help in terms of build-up towards the league.

"When you are in Division 1 and meeting the best sides, you need all the preparation you can get and we feel that the McKenna Cup fits the bill in this respect. I know some people decry the pre-season competitions but I take a different view."

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke has been left with interesting selection options following fine performances by some of his newcomers in the win over Antrim last weekend.

As he prepares for Sunday's game against St Mary's at Clones, O'Rourke is mulling over the selection claims of Michael Bannigan, James Mealiff, Barry Kerr, Darren Freeman, Barry McGinn and Jamie Walsh in particular.

Irish Independent