Minors stick to Harte's formula
When Tyrone's minor footballers take the field against Cork tomorrow afternoon, there will be something very familiar about them.
The county has developed a winning template to work from and, from senior down, teams wearing the Red Hand are imprinted with a style that bears the stamp Mickey Harte's influence.
Yet, the senior manager doesn't have any involvement with the underage structure anymore. It's a case that the county have discovered a way to win, and they are sticking to it. It worked three times in the last decade at minor level, while tomorrow they are hot favourites to beat Cork.
Rebels boss Brian Cuthbert knows the task that his side face, a fluent side full of good footballers. And the Bishopstownman believes the Ulster county have a template for success.
"I'm not blowing them up, but they've gone through a system through their schools of excellence where you can see them all trying to play the same system as their senior team and by the time they get to minor then they know it inside out," he said.
"I think Tyrone, and maybe Armagh to a certain extent, are leading the way in terms of schools of excellence. They're probably five, six or seven years ahead of all of the rest of us, especially down in Munster.
"I'm not being smart, but I think Cork and Kerry have a belief that you do it a certain way and eventually it comes right by the end.
"If you take Kerry for example, the last minor All-Ireland they won was in '94 and yet they can produce five or six senior players -- off their minor teams that aren't successful.
"I think that's a template that Cork would follow as well, try to groom players, not put pressure on them and not stick them to systems at 14, 15, 16 years of age. I think the emphasis on coaching in Cork would be on skill development and it's starting to come on to physical development now as well.
"Our emphasis with our younger players is more on skill development than physical development and the tactical development is coming later."
Tyrone legend Peter Canavan, whose nephew Thomas plays for this year's minors, believes the success at underage level is a combination of the knock-on effect of senior All-Irelands and the structures the county have in place.
"It's a wee bit of both," he said. "I recall, when I was younger, I looked up to the senior teams in Croke Park and wanted to emulate them.
"So to have senior teams bringing success, it does have a knock-on effect. It's no good having that knock-on effect if the systems aren't in place to make the most of it and in Tyrone, a lot of underage work is put in on the development squads.
"The quality of the coaching in the clubs is very good, while the quality of the coaching in the schools is as good as any county. A lot of the players are either past players or very good coaches.
"It can only be good for the game where everyone, no matter where you play, has to be comfortable on the ball. That happens as a result of good coaching at underage level. That's the way it should be."
While he says he doesn't compare notes with Harte, Tyrone manager Ray Munroe admits the hunger is generated from the success that started with the senior All-Ireland win in 2003.
"If we look back to the success at senior level in 2003, since the Association started Tyrone had been coming down here and watching other people win All-Irelands," he said. "Maybe it's that hunger. If you take your foot off the pedal and stop development, other teams are going to catch up. Our teams are going about what they're doing, trying to build on what we have.
"We've been blessed. At development level, yes, a lot of work has gone in with good coaches coming through, while at schools level an awful lot of our teachers are former inter-county GAA players, which means they devote an awful lot of time.
"Tyrone, at times, are blessed with talented players coming together at one time. We didn't always have that, but at the minute -- this year again -- it looks rosy. We have nothing else to live for up in Tyrone, only the GAA.
"We had so many years watching others being successful in Croke Park, we want to be here all the time.
"It's not possible, but that doesn't mean we stop trying," he added.