Tuesday 26 September 2017

Play-anywhere Harte now key man for Tyrone

Peter Harte (left) and Ciaran McKeever at the launch of a replica model of Croke Park, which is available on line from supremestadium.com.
Peter Harte (left) and Ciaran McKeever at the launch of a replica model of Croke Park, which is available on line from supremestadium.com.
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

PETER HARTE is no stranger to the great Ulster football rivalry that Tyrone and Armagh has become and he finds himself right in the middle of it ahead of Sunday's latest bout.

His college housemate at St Mary's teacher-training college in Belfast is Michael Stevenson.

Stevenson is among the Armagh substitutes and is expected to feature at some stage after making a memorable senior debut last March, scoring six points from frees in their Allianz League victory over Down.

His red-haired Tyrone housemate, who has just finished his third-year exams, is expected to play a much more central role.

For the past three seasons, people have been urging his uncle, Mickey, to give more of the county's youth its fling, but the Tyrone boss kept his own counsel and chose his moments carefully.

It speaks volumes about his nephew's ability that Peter Harte was actually one of the few Tyrone All-Ireland-winning minors of 2008 to be elevated to senior status relatively quickly.

He came off the bench to replace Brian Dooher against Antrim in the 2010 Ulster championship and started against Down in Tyrone's next match.

Then, last summer, as people continued to question the Tyrone manager for being too loyal to his All-Ireland treble-winning 'old guard', Harte -- a Hogan Cup winner with Omagh CBS when he still had a year of secondary school to go -- became a regular.

But it was his switch from half-forward to centre-back this season that has seen people really sit up and take notice.

Harte has been chosen to play at wing-forward on Sunday, but the man who first selected him at centre-back has no doubts about his versatility.

Raymond Munroe managed Tyrone to All-Ireland minor triumphs in 2008 and 2010 and he put Harte at No 6 in the '08 team which beat Mayo in a replay.

"You might have thought that Peter wouldn't be one of the first to make the seniors simply because he's not the biggest physically, but he's very deceptive and has great strength and pace," said Munroe.

Harte's combination of skill, vision and speed prompted Munroe to design his team around him at centre-back. "As a manager you look at the personnel at your disposal and, even then, Peter had amazing maturity and an ability to read a game," he said.

"He was a half-forward with his club (Errigal Ciaran), but I liked him looking up the field, because he has this great vision and is always looking to make things happen.

adapted

"As for defending, I always think he defends with his feet, he's like a swallow. He can react in a flash and cut off a move or hold up the ball until help arrives."

Harte is certainly not your stereotypical county centre-back, so how has he adapted? "It was a steep learning curve against people like Aidan O'Shea," he said. "But it's a role I enjoy now and you see a lot more of the game ahead of you."

Harte scored 5-5 (three goals from penalties) from centre-back during Tyrone's unbeaten 12-game run to the Division 2 league final.

A counter-attacking defence has always been a trademark of Mickey Harte's teams and this year's half-back line scored 3-11 from play and even with last night's decision to play Harte further forward he will still be expected to play a central role.

Irish Independent

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