Harte staying cool despite Red Hand injury woes

MICKEY HARTE has insisted there is no need to hit the panic button ahead of Tyrone’s Ulster Championship opener against Antrim on Sunday week despite the absence of his two first-choice midfielders due to injury.

Enda McGinley was ruled out of the game at Casement Park prior to last weekend when Aidan Cassidy – the county’s stand-out performer in the league – dislocated an ankle playing for his club on Saturday night.

Both men would have been odds on to start in midfield for the three-time All-Ireland winners who will now turn to Kevin Hughes, Colm Cavanagh and possibly his brother Sean Cavanagh to fill the void in the engine room.

With centre-back Conor Gormley expected to miss the entire summer with a serious knee injury, Harte is working off a less-than-full deck but he waved away similarities to the 2004 and 2006 seasons when injuries put paid to their championship ambitions.

“No, no, I am not a pessimist. You just take it as you find it. People get injuries and every year injuries occur somewhere along the line. Forgotten in the middle of all of it is Ciaran Gourley who did his cruciate and Damian McCaul, who did it last year and was just back and did it again.

“Damian is almost on the way back now too and another month and he will be available again. So, it is not all bad news. Everybody has to deal with their own injury situation and we will have to do the same.”

On the plus side for Tyrone, Steven O’Neill and Brian Dooher are both training and available for the Antrim tie after a spring of inactivity while Joe and Justin McMahon should also be in line for a game that will be a repeat of the 2009 provincial decider.

That said, Cassidy’s loss cannot be overstated. The Augher clubman was a revelation in the National League and his impact was highlighted yesterday when Harte likened his driving runs to those that made Anthony Tohill a household name.

“Desperate, desperate,” Harte said of the injury. “Of course I always get this sort of news when I am away. We were just in America at the weekend and just back (yesterday) morning. I got a text from Michael (his son and team physio) to say that it seems like it is dislocated.

“We would be concerned about it now because he was making great headway and we would have felt he would have been a big player for us this year.

“That is the hand you are dealt sometimes and we have to deal with it. Hopefully the rest of the players pull up their socks and compensate. But he is certainly a big loss because he is the kind of player we haven’t had for a long time.”

It remains to be seen how serious the injury is, but few managers have proven as adept at juggling their resources as Harte, who once played Joe McMahon in the full-back line in an All-Ireland final after a season spent at wing-forward.

“Probably the most injury-free year we have had was the year I took over, 2003, ironically. About 16 players took us through the whole season but we haven’t had such good luck since. You have to deal with these things and cope with them.

“There is a lot of experience and maturity within the team to be able to deal with that. We will still give it our best shot and I think there are still a lot of good players in Tyrone who are available. If they can hang in there and perform well hopefully bit by bit we will get some of these men back and still have something to play for.

“That is the idea anyway.”

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