Sunday 17 December 2017

Harte longing for return to days when his Tyrone had the Dubs' measure

Mickey Harte in his 15th season as Tyrone boss Photo: Sportsfile
Mickey Harte in his 15th season as Tyrone boss Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Mickey Harte will be hoping for a return to the trends of his earlier years as a manager when he leads Tyrone for the 17th time against Dublin in Saturday night's Allianz football League clash in Croke Park.

He does so at a time when there's fresh optimism in Red Hand country that Harte, now in his 15th season as boss, is building a new empire.

The process accelerated last year when they won the Ulster title for the first time since 2010, before progress was interrupted when they were beaten by Mayo after wasting several good scoring chances in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

However, Tyrone regarded that defeat as a temporary setback, albeit one that almost certainly cost them a place in the final as they would, in all probability, have beaten Tipperary in the semi-final.

Indeed, they remain convinced that if they had negotiated a way to the final their approach would have caused Dublin all sorts of problems. Instead they watched Mayo come so close before losing in a replay.

"There's no guarantee that if we had been there that we'd have won the game or if it would have been much different. Maybe Dublin could have beaten us by more - who knows? But I do believe we'd have been capable of competing with them. It would have been great to get the chance," said Harte late last year.

The balance of power in recent years has tilted dramatically towards Dublin in their rivalry with Tyrone. Harte presided over five wins, a draw and three defeats from nine league and championships games against Dublin in his first seven seasons (2003-2009) as Tyrone manager. Those included an All-Ireland quarter-final win in 2005 and an 11-point win in the 2008 quarter-final.

It has been very different since then, with Dublin winning five, drawing one and losing one of seven games over the last seven seasons (2010-'16). Tyrone's last win over Dublin was in the 2013 league (group game) but that success was later devalued as Jim Gavin's men gained revenge with a one-point win in the final.

After extending their unbeaten run to 30 games last Sunday, the All-Ireland and league champions are favourites on Saturday but Tyrone will be encouraged by their last clash with Dublin which ended in a draw in a 2015 Division 1 clash.

However, Tyrone were later relegated after taking only one point from their final three games.

Irish Independent

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