Harte demands more as Tyrone build up steam
Tyrone 2-13 Louth 0-13
TYRONE boss Mickey Harte made absolutely no secret of their ambitions in Drogheda yesterday.
"The longer you're in it, people begin to accept you as a Division 2 team and we don't want to be in that league," he grimaced.
"We're in the second division because we weren't good enough to stay in the first and now we have to convince ourselves we're good enough to be back there," he said.
After seeing their side maintain a 100pc record -- and a two-goal per game average -- most managers would have been delighted, especially as Tyrone could have had a third goal had Neil Gallagher not saved Peter Harte's penalty five minutes into the second half.
But their manager is so anxious to get out of the second tier at this stage, that he's setting lofty standards and he was none too enamoured by their second-half play.
Tyrone led by four at half-time (1-7 to 0-6) and had a one-man advantage for the last 15 minutes after Paddy Keenan was sent off for a second yellow, yet the Wee County men actually cut a six-point gap back to four with five minutes remaining before Mark Donnelly, Cathal McCarron and Owen Mulligan put the tie beyond their reach.
Things might have been different too had goalkeeper John Devine not been in such brilliant, hair-trigger form, denying Louth on three occasions, including getting his foot to a Darren Clarke shot in the dying minutes.
Even after going a man down the home side still had a lot of scoring chances, but squandered them badly, a broad spread of players taking the wrong option repeatedly at the end of both halves, while shooting seven of their 10 wides after the break.
"OK they missed a penalty, but we probably missed about 2-6 ourselves in that second half," said Louth boss Peter Fitzpatrick, trying to look on the bright side after his side, who drew with Galway last time out, finally surrendered their unbeaten record.
He, too, was in a forthright mood, admitting the sides' respective priorities and resources are somewhat different.
"They've won three All-Irelands and have a ton of All Stars, they're preparing for an All-Ireland, while we're working on staying in Division 2," he reflected.
Fitzpatrick certainly couldn't fault his side's effort and they actually won most of the afternoon's aerial battles.
Louth got an excellent start, with Derek Crilly scoring two points in-a-row as they raced into an early 0-4 to 0-2 lead against the wind, which made Crilly's half-time withdrawal a bit puzzling.
Adrian Reid, after six minutes, and Mark Brennan, set up by a brilliant Keenan pass after 22 minutes, both had good goal chances denied by Devine's sharpness and once Clarke arrived, the game opened up for Derek Maguire, who scored an impressive 0-3 from play in the second-half.
The Louth defence, which saw Mick Fanning last just 35 minutes on his long-awaited return, also held a lot of big-name forwards to some modest scores and forced Tyrone, without the hamstrung Stephen O'Neill, to empty their experienced bench.
But they they were always in trouble when Tyrone, led by Harte and Mark Donnelly, ran at them and it was noticeable that 2-3 of the visitor's scores came from their half-back line.
Harte's ability to switch instantaneously from defence to attack is already firmly established and his scores, a goal after 16 minutes and a 55m free on the half-hour, were both equally eye-catching.
But wing-backs Cathal McCarron and Damian McCaul also showed outstanding duality yesterday, even if Louth were caught napping badly when they let the latter waltz through unimpeded to grab Tyrone's second goal on 42 minutes.
That came at the worst possible time, just two minutes after Gallagher's heroic penalty save, and any chance of a Louth comeback went with Keenan's dismissal for a late tackle, which Fitzpatrick thought was harsh.
When Tyrone got their counter-attacking game going they looked lethal and it even made up for their inferiority in midfield, but the problem for Harte was that they didn't maintain it for long enough.
"The games are coming thick and fast now, but it's the same for everyone," Harte said.
"That makes it a challenge for a squad now, not a team, and we've a squad as good as any to deal with that."
That fact was underlined by the Cavanagh brothers, Ryan McMenamin and Justin McMahon coming off the bench yesterday.
Man of the Match: C McCarron (Tyrone)
Scorers --Tyrone: P Harte 1-1 (1f), D McCaul 1-0, O Mulligan 0-3 (2f), C McCarron, M Donnelly, K Coney 0-2 each, N McKenna, P McNeice, M Penrose (f) 0-1 each. Louth: D Maguire 0-3, D Crilly
0-2, R Finnegan, A McDonnell, D Clarke, M Brennan, J McEneaney, B White, P Keenan (f), B Donnelly ('45') 0-1 each.
Tyrone -- J Devine 9; A McCrory 7, C Clarke 7, PJ Quinn 6; C McCarron 9, P Harte 8, D McCaul 8; N McKenna 7, Joe McMahon 7; R McNabb 7, Mark Donnelly 8, P McNeice 6; K Coney 8, M Penrose 6, O Mulligan 7. Subs: S Cavanagh 6 for Coney (54), C Cavanagh 6 for McKenna (54), R McMenamin 6 for McCarron (61), Justin McMahon for McCarron (71).
Louth -- N Gallagher 8; G Hoey 8, D Finnegan 7, J Carr 6; R Finnegan 7, M Fanning 6, L Shevlin 6; P Keenan 7, B Donnelly 7; D Crilly 8, M Brennan 7, A Reid 6; A McDonnell 7, R Carroll 6, D Maguire 8. Subs: R Greene 8 for Fanning (29), J McEneaney 7 for Reid (29), D Clarke 7 for Crilly (h-t), B White 7 for Carroll (51) E O'Connor 6 for Brennan (62).
Ref -- G McCormack (Dublin).