Monday 19 August 2019

Harte: The tide will turn for 'consistent' Tyrone

Mattie Donnelly and Conor Meyler try to digest their semi-final defeat to Kerry. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Mattie Donnelly and Conor Meyler try to digest their semi-final defeat to Kerry. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Given everything that he has overcome in his life, a season-ending defeat to Kerry is a drop in the ocean for Tyrone boss Mickey Harte and he is already planning for the challenges ahead.

It was too early for Harte to entertain any talk of retirements from the Red Hand fold - 32-year-old Colm Cavanagh is the most likely to lean in that direction - but his place at the helm seems certain despite another year without Sam Maguire.

"I sure do," the three-time All-Ireland-winning manager defiantly responded when asked if he still has the same energy and desire to commence his 18th season in charge next year.

Many feel Tyrone have hit a glass ceiling but Harte is not one of them. Last year brought an All-Ireland final appearance where they ran into the unstoppable Dublin juggernaut but he feels they are "a work in progress" and that the best is yet to come.

"This team is a work in progress and they will continue to compete at a high level and they will get better, and I have no reason not to think that," Harte said. "Look at their record, it's been very consistent and consistently getting better each year. Sometimes just because you didn't get to the place you got last year, it doesn't mean this team isn't better."

Despite failing to defeat big hitters Dublin - in their last two Super 8s meetings as well as last year's All-Ireland decider - and Kerry, Harte was adamant that the tide will turn in their favour.

"It's disappointing to hear the narrative that comes out about that, because we did beat them in other competitions, we beat both of them in the league and pushed them close on many other occasions," the 67-year-old said.

"The times that we beat those teams in the past, there was a kick of the ball here or there, we could have lost to them just as much as won them so the teams that won it in those situations can be grateful they got the rub of green.

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"They made it count, and this current group of players are on the unfortunate side of the levelling off of that statistic. One day that will be put to bed, don't worry about that."

It looked like it would be a repeat of last year's final as Tyrone had Kerry spooked to lead 0-9 to 0-5 at the break and the Kingdom had no answer to the twin towers of Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly in their full-forward line.

That was all changed upon the resumption, however, with Stephen O'Brien's 57th-minute goal signalling the turning of the tide as David Clifford and Paul Geaney began to get more latitude and kept enough breathing space between the sides until the finish.

"We did expect there would be something more to Kerry and I think we caught them a wee bit by surprise in the first half and they had time to reflect on that and regroup. They came out with a different attire in the second half.

Challenge

"They were up for the challenge, up for the fight. As the game went on, that became very apparent. And I suppose when it got close, a point-for-point game, a goal was going to be major for any team and that's the way it turned out."

Harte wasn't overly impressed with the performance of Laois referee Maurice Deegan - "you certainly would have looked at a few decisions and thought they were harsh" - while he reckoned the six minutes of second-half injury time (over seven minutes were eventually played) was not sufficient - but couldn't fault the effort of his players.

"People talk about that you don't always get what you deserve in life, and perhaps the outcome and result isn't what a lot of our players deserve, but that's life. Life's a journey and sometimes things go very well for you and sometimes they don't," he said philosophically.

"Perhaps when it doesn't go well is the days when you learn more about yourself as a person, never mind as a sports person. So we've been on many rough roads in the past and I'm sure there will be some more bumps in the future."

Tyrone's chance to dethrone the Dubs and thwart their record-breaking drive for five has passed but Harte feels Kerry are in the perfect position to rain on their parade.

"Ah of course they will," Harte said of whether Peter Keane's side could push the Dubs. "They're a very experienced team now, and even their young players are experienced at a high level, and Kerry is Kerry.

"They don't go to finals to lose them, so I think that Dublin will have their hands full with them and who's to say can they do it?

"Kerry are probably the ideal team to stop somebody else doing the five-in-a-row, because they knew what that was like themselves and maybe they would like to inflict that on somebody else."

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