Opinion

Saturday 20 October 2018

Make or break for sideline stalwarts

Hold The Back Page

Malachy O’Rourke and Mickey Harte have both had to regroup after setbacks earlier this summer and today their teams go head-to-head, with a place in the All-Ireland final on the line. Photo: Sportsfile
Malachy O’Rourke and Mickey Harte have both had to regroup after setbacks earlier this summer and today their teams go head-to-head, with a place in the All-Ireland final on the line. Photo: Sportsfile

Eamonn Sweeney

One way of looking at today's semi-final between Tyrone and Monaghan is as a play-off for Gaelic football's Manager of the Year title. To get this far, both Mickey Harte and Malachy O'Rourke have had to recover from morale-sapping defeats, overcome the odds away from home in the Super 8, defy harsh criticism which questioned their whole footballing philosophy and make extremely judicious use of the players available to them. Making it to the semis under these circumstances has been a fine achievement. Reaching the final would be a remarkable one.

At this stage last year everything looked pretty rosy for Harte. The veteran manager appeared to have finally built a Tyrone side with a chance of emulating his great team of the noughties. They arrived in the semi-final with an average winning margin of almost 12 points per game. Tyrone might not have been fancied to beat Dublin but they were expected to provide the All-Ireland champions with a rigorous examination

Seventy minutes later, it all laid in ruins. Tyrone had been outclassed to an extent not fully reflected in their 12-point margin of defeat. They might have taken some consolation from the post-match consensus that Dublin had just taken Gaelic football to a new level. But the narrowness of Mayo's defeat in the final made Tyrone's performance look shabbier still.

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