Sunday 25 September 2016

Tyrone in familiar place but Harte says qualifiers 'not a bad place to be'

Published 19/05/2015 | 02:30

Mickey Harte remains optimistic that the season can still prove very fruitful for Tyrone (Sportsfile)
Mickey Harte remains optimistic that the season can still prove very fruitful for Tyrone (Sportsfile)

Tyrone are facing into the first round of the All-Ireland football qualifiers for a third successive year, following their defeat by Donegal on Sunday.

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It's the fifth time in 10 seasons that Tyrone find themselves in the first round, which is unusually high for such a strong county.

However, they are in the most competitive province and have also been drawn in the preliminary round quite regularly, which obviously increases the chances of an early exit.

They will be encouraged by the fact that they won the All-Ireland title via the longest possible route in 2008, beating Louth, Westmeath, Mayo, Dublin, Wexford and Kerry.

Division 4 teams were excluded from the qualifiers back then, making it possible to win the All-Ireland in six games from Round 1.

With Division 4 teams back in the qualifiers, seven victories are now required to win the title, but Mickey Harte remains optimistic that the season can still prove very fruitful for Tyrone.

"We are no strangers to that particular avenue (qualifiers). I still have confidence that we'll not be in a bad place when the dust settles on this (defeat by Donegal)," he said.

Ironically, Tyrone could find themselves back in Ballybofey on June 27 for a first-round qualifier clash with Donegal, if the defending Ulster champions lose to Armagh in the quarter-final.

Under the changed qualifier system, introduced for the first time last year, the draw is more restricted than used to be the case, thereby increasing the chance of provincial rematches.

Counties are divided into A and B sections, with the first-round draw featuring two groups of eight, rather than one group of 16.

Tyrone are in Group B, which means they will be in a draw with the following: Louth, Leitrim, Armagh or Donegal; Down or Derry; Wexford or Westmeath; Meath or Wicklow; Clare or Limerick.

Tyrone lost to Armagh in last year's qualifiers.

Group A will be comprised of: Carlow, Offaly, Laois or Kildare; Longford or Dublin, Cavan or Monaghan; Antrim or Fermanagh; Waterford or Tipperary; London or Roscommon.

The Group A games will be played on June 20.

TYRONE IN THE QUALIFIERS

(How they fared under Mickey Harte)

2004: Entered in Round 2. Reached All-Ireland quarter-final, losing to Mayo.

2005: Entered in Round 4. Won All-Ireland title.

2006: Entered in Round 1. Lost to Laois in Round 2.

2008: Entered in Round 1. Won All-Ireland title

2011: Entered in Round 2. Reached All-Ireland quarter-final, losing to Dublin

2012: Entered Round 2. Lost to Kerry in Round 3.

2013: Entered in Round 1: Reached All-Ireland semi-final, losing to Mayo.

2014: Entered Round 1: Lost to Armagh in Round 2. Martin Breheny

Irish Independent

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