Tuesday 20 February 2018

Harte wary of Mayo's 'unpredictability' ahead of Omagh clash

Harte: Wary of Mayo threat. Photo: Sportsfile
Harte: Wary of Mayo threat. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Mayo's "unpredictability" has made them among Tyrone's most difficult opponents for a decade-and-a-half, the Ulster champions' manager Mickey Harte has revealed.

Mayo head for Omagh on Sunday seeking two precious Division 1 points to steer them clear of the relegation whirlpool and they'll be emboldened by their record against Harte-managed sides. Stephen Rochford's men knocked Tyrone out of last year's championship at the quarter-final stage and also beat them in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final. Tyrone beat them in the league in Castlebar two years ago but Harte feels they are difficult to read.

"I think there is a degree of unpredictability about the way they play the game. They very much play off the cuff at times," he said. "I am not saying they are structured. They have a structure, every team has that now. But they lean more towards playing a very expansive game that fits well for them and that has always been the position. You could study Mayo quite a bit and still not be sure how they are going to turn up on any given day and play and that is something you have to think about quite a bit when you play them."

Harte has dismissed the idea that a dangerous level of enmity has built up between Donegal and Tyrone over the last six years that manifested again in Ballybofey on Saturday night during an altercation that took three minutes to get under control. It followed their Ulster U-21 championship draw during the week which also had an edge to it.

"I think it is a rivalry that has evolved because Donegal have emerged in the past five years as a serious senior team, with an All-Ireland win, an All-Ireland final appearance and a number of Ulsters to prove that. They have played in six Ulster finals in a row.

"So there is a rejuvenation of Donegal as a power in Ulster and Ireland. When someone rises as a power, someone else wants to challenge that power. Monaghan became the team to do it, we feel that we have the team to do it as well. Rivalries happen from time to time and sometimes the whole idea of the enmity that exists within that can be overplayed.

"I know that crowds can get fractious in terms of the vociferous nature of their comments and things like that but that is always going to happen when you have people who are very passionate and maybe don't have as much sense to go with the passion."

Harte's Tyrone teams have suffered more than others in Ballybofey where Donegal extended their unbeaten run in league and championship to 17 games, stretching back to 2011. Since Jim McGuinness took over they haven't been beaten there with Tyrone losing twice in league and twice in championship, including last Saturday night which was, admitted Harte, "just as bad" as their 2015 defeat.

And he feels no county can switch off during a league campaign any more, primarily because of the manner of Dublin's dominance in the competition.

"With the emergence of that mentality Dublin have won the last four leagues in a row and have been very successful in the All-Ireland as well.

"People used to think if you do well in the league, you mightn't necessarily be a big shot in the championship.

"But it has turned full circle, it has become very important to be doing well in the league to give yourself a chance of doing well in the championship."

Irish Independent

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