Thursday 26 April 2018

Harte highlights spread of scorers of big sign of Tyrone progress

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

Memories of leaving Croke Park last August, having suffered their only defeat of the season, still haunt this Tyrone side.

But more than anything, the measly total of just 12 points scored against opponents Mayo hurt more than anything else. They hadn't died with their boots on.

This year, Mickey Harte admits that they have gone back to the drawing board.

Last year, allowing for a replay against Cavan where they hit five goals, they scored a total of 8-73 in six games. They are only two points shy of that tally this year with a game less played, having run up 6-77 in this year's championship.

"We were trying very hard last year. We had a very good season up until we met Mayo and we did create many more chances than we converted. So that is something the players have thought long and hard about," admitted Harte.

"We've worked very much on people preparing to take on shots, but you can't just wait to the day of the game to do that.

"We need this in training every night. We need players who may not normally be shooters finding themselves in positions to take scores.

"I think that has contributed to the spread of scores we have had, that we now have players who don't believe, 'I get a nosebleed here' if they find themselves in a position to take a shot. (Instead, it's), 'I am prepared and capable of taking this on.'"

That is borne out in the spread of scoring. The lazy shorthand of Tyrone not having a 'marquee forward' when you consider the numbers scoring in games against Armagh (10), Down (11), Donegal (12) and Derry (12).

"Yes, there's been a whole lot of thought around the idea of finishing better. But I can't say that transformation will just take place in one year either," continued Harte.

"We've hit some purple patches this year and when you do that, not so much those scores in themselves - although they're very valuable on the scoreboard - they give a confidence to the entire team, saying: 'If we take this on, we can get more than this'. It's not the scores in themselves, it's the confidence they give to people.

"The whole idea that lots of people score on every day we've played this year, to me that's a good thing."

With the experience of the Mayo defeat partly behind them after blitzing Armagh in the quarter-final, Harte refuses to concede that they are a year better off, given the profile of the teams left in the All-Ireland series.

"We are a year older, all of us. And the players for all of them, that is a good thing.

"I would say Sean (Cavanagh), maybe he would like the year to go back instead of forward, but the way he is playing at the minute I don't think it has done him any harm either."

He continued, "(But) you can't take it just on our side and say that Dublin haven't matured as well. So we have to be very mindful of the fact that what appears to us that we are a year down the road of our development, that Dublin aren't actually a team that are going away anywhere either.

"We have to balance it up. Yes, it is nice to have another year's experience. It would have been nice to have another year's experience having been in an All-Ireland final. Are we in a better place? Who knows until after this game is played."

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