Red Hands to go on the attack.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

MICKEY Harte is hoping the magic of the legendary Stephen O'Neill will rub off on his players and make his team an attacking force in 2018.

The former Footballer of the Year and three-time All-Ireland winner has joined the Tyrone backroom team as forwards coach, adding fuel to expectations that the Red Hands are set to ditch their defensive strategy in favour of a more offensive approach this season.

Harte is confident the three-time All-Star, who retired from inter-county football in 2014, will help the current crop of forwards become more clinical in front of goal.

"We would know that he's an instinctive forward and can do things that very few others can do," said Harte.

"So if he can coach a little bit of that into our forwards, then that will be helpful.

"Other players can get insights as to why he was as effective as he was as a player on the field, and he can coach them about ways of doing things that they mightn't have thought about before.

"And when it's coming from someone who has been there and done it, they fairly well will listen to it."

The Tyrone boss feels defenders will also benefit from the input of O'Neill, one of the greatest attackers the game has seen.

"The days of backs, forwards and all that is gone, we know that. The days of positional sense as it writes on a match programme is gone.

"So it is about football, and every player needs to be able to think like that, to think like an attacker and to work like a defender. That's the way the game's going.

"Stevie is no stranger to Tyrone football. I have worked with him since he was 17, so we all know him well, Gavin (Devlin) knows him well and he brings something different to us.

"It's good to have him, it's another pair of very seasoned eyes on all that's going on." Tyrone have scored 5-36 in two Dr McKenna Cup games, but had to work hard to get the better of Sigerson Cup champions St Mary's by 1-16 to 1-11 at Coalisland on Sunday.

"It wasn't easy. I said that after we beat Antrim, we would meet more stubborn opposition, because they are a side that plays together a lot and they are a side that have a good, cohesive unit and they have a good system of play," said Harte.

"So, I knew it would be difficult to play against them. Having said that I think we created enough chances in the first half to have the game more safely tucked away in our favour but we didn't take those chances and it was a fight to the end."

A heavy overnight frost left the game on doubt, but it did go ahead on a firm surface following a delayed throw-in, one of only three McKenna Cup ties to survive the weekend weather.

"They (conditions) were probably more difficult than people looking would have thought. People were slipping when the ball was coming into them and maybe the ball headed off in a different trajectory than it was expected to. There are all those things to deal with but it was the same for both teams," said Harte.

Harte was pleased with the performances of some of his newcomers, who have adapted to the inter-county game in impressive fashion.

"Yeah, Ciaran McLaughlin is a good player, and that's why he is with us. I suppose more people would need to see that as the year goes on." He also paid tribute to Michael McKernan, who has impressed in both games to date.

"That's again why we picked him up and now he has been with the U21s for a few years now too. He is a quality player and we are glad to have him for this part of the McKenna Cup."

A win over Cavan at Kingspan Breffni on Wednesday evening will send Tyrone through to the semis and keep them on track for a seventh straight title success.

"It's what we wanted to do. We want to keep winning games and leave the qualification to the semi-finals in our own hands and we have that at the minute," said Harte.

"We need a result on Wednesday night to put that beyond doubt but it is good for the McKenna Cup that this is a serious game on Wednesday night again. The winners will be guaranteed to be in the semi-finals."


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