Harte warmed by top-class display ahead of daunting Division 1 return
Orla Bannon Dr McKenna Cup final
WINNING a McKenna Cup is regarded as an important rite of passage by Mickey Harte and he is a lot happier now his young Tyrone team are heading into a Division 1 campaign clutching a first senior medal.
A week ago, he described the prospect of Tyrone's return to Division 1 as "scary" but the performances of some of his new recruits in Saturday night's final should make their return to the top table a lot more enjoyable.
In a team barely recognisable from their last All-Ireland win in 2008, the individual displays of Ronan McNamee, Mattie Donnelly and Conor McAlliskey, allied to the assured brilliance of man of the match Stephen O'Neill and Sean Cavanagh, warmed Harte's heart on a gusty and wet night at the Athletic Grounds.
"I think it's always good to win games and it's even better to win trophies," Harte said.
"Other trophies might be more difficult to win, but if you can get young players used to winning things then you want to keep that mentality right with them."
Monaghan were reduced to 13 men but the game was already over as a contest by the time defenders Ronan McNally (straight red) and Dessie Mone were sent-off in the dying seconds of each half.
Mindful of the two Ulster final defeats they'd suffered against Tyrone in 2007 and '10, Monaghan came with huge purpose and intensity and made all the running in the first 20 minutes.
Kieran Hughes' 12th-minute goal, when he swung his left boot through a sea of bodies in the square, helped put them into a 1-3 to 0-3 lead as Tyrone laboured despite having the benefit of a gale-force wind at their backs.
But once Tyrone got to grips with the tempo of the game, their forward power was devastating. They effectively won the match in a 10-minute spell before half-time when they outscored their opponents by 2-4 to 0-1.
Peter Harte, who switched from full-forward to wing-forward, was involved in the build-up to both goals from Mark Donnelly and O'Neill in the 29th and 35th minutes.
Tyrone led 2-7 to 1-4 at the break, with Ronan McNally dismissed on a straight red card for a reckless challenge against Harte.
Although Monaghan had the wind in the second half, Tyrone played a measured, clever game against the breeze and further goals from Donnelly on 39 minutes and a Harte penalty right at the death after Mone hauled him to the ground and got sent off, further cemented their dominance.
"It was a tough game, there was nothing given there handy, you had to work for it," said the Tyrone manager (pictured below).
"We know we're going into a very tough competition but I'd rather be going in as a winner rather than someone who can't win in this competition.
"We haven't played a lot of Division 1 teams yet, and you have to be mindful of that.
"But we have played a lot of competitive games and the young boys will have that experience and have the experience of a final, because finals are there to be won."
SCORERS – Tyrone: M Donnelly 2-0, S O'Neill (2f) 1-3, P Harte (1 pen, 0-1f) 1-1, C McAlliskey 0-3, R McNamee, P Kane, S Cavanagh (f), K Gallagher 0-1 each; Monaghan: K Hughes 1-1, P Finlay (4f) 0-4, D Hughes, O Duffy 0-2 each, C McManus (1f)
TYRONE – N Morgan; A McCrory, C Clarke, C McCarron; R McNamee, Joe McMahon, D McBride; P Kane, S Cavanagh; T McCann, P Harte, Mattie Donnelly; C McAlliskey, S O'Neill, Mark Donnelly. Subs: Justin McMahon for Clarke (30), R McKenna for McNamee (51), K Gallagher for McCann (54), M Penrose for O'Neill (62), B Tierney for McBride (67)
MONAGHAN – M Keogh; R McNally, F Kelly, K Duffy; D Mone, D Hughes, M McElroy; D Clerkin, O Lennon; O Duffy, P Finlay, S McQuillan; K Hughes, C McManus, D Malone. Subs: S Smith for Malone (10), G Doogan for McQuillan (40), N McAdam for Clerkin (42), C Galligan for McElroy (52), P McArdle for Finlay (59).
REF – B Cassidy (Derry).