Sunday 20 October 2019

Harte: We all need to believe that the Dubs can be stopped

On the hunt: Tyrone manager Mickey Harte congratulates Cathal McShane after their victory over Monaghan which kick-started their Football League campaign. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
On the hunt: Tyrone manager Mickey Harte congratulates Cathal McShane after their victory over Monaghan which kick-started their Football League campaign. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

In Roscommon last month, Mickey Harte told the media his side needed to be in "the business of getting some points".

At that stage, Tyrone had just a draw from three games and could count themselves lucky to be off the mark at all, as earlier that afternoon a Roscommon retaliation denied them a late free that would surely have given the Connacht men the win.

Tyrone responded to Harte's promptings and picked up two wins on the bounce to give themselves some breathing space.

"The way the league has gone, five points is not a bad return for these games," Harte suggested.

"It isn't a guarantee to be safe yet, so everything is still to be played for because there's lots of permutations that could work out that five points is not enough… you could still be safe on (five) points and you could still be relegated on five points." 


So Tyrone could yet be dragged into the relegation battle but they can also force their way into the league final frame if they were to manage what has become close to impossible in recent years and win in Croke Park against Dublin on Saturday night.

"If we beat Dublin on Saturday, whether we're able to make a league final or not won't be the biggest issue of all," Harte reflected at the launch of the 20th annual KN Group All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge.

"It will be a really good confidence boost if you're able to take Dublin on at this stage of the season and beat them.

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"We haven't done that for a long time! In fact, nobody has done that for a long time.

"So, yes, it would be worth its weight in gold just as a standalone result. And if it put you in a position to go better, then that's another bonus possibility."

Harte hasn't beaten Jim Gavin since they first clashed as managers in the league of 2013.

In the seven games since, Tyrone have managed just two draws.

They have met three times in the championship across 2017 and 2018 with the Dubs winning by 12, three and six points. Harte insists they are closing the gap.

"If we all felt that this was an impossible task, we would be doing ourselves and the country at large a disservice," he said when asked if Dublin can be stopped this summer.

"We have to say that this task can be done. Who, when or where it will be done, nobody knows. But if we don't keep trying, then it definitely won't happen. So we all need to go in with that belief that this can be done and we would be capable of doing it if everything went right for us.

"That is what you have to believe, you have to believe that you are capable of doing it but we would never be arrogant to believe that we will do it.

"We want to believe that we can be one of the ones challenging them and if everything turns out right on a particular day... and it has to be a very particular day.

"It can't be any day before an All-Ireland semi-final. And you have to get there in the first place, which is not an easy task for any other county other than Dublin.

"So, you have a lot of things to worry about before you get to Dublin at a critical time of the season.

"If we had all those things sorted out, it would become an issue to deal with then... it would be a nice thing to have to deal with."

Harte has tinkered with his panel during the spring. Former underage star Kyle Coney is back in the mix while Darragh Canavan is also included.

And Harte hinted he will continue to experiment with his various options.

"A lot of football, the way you play the game, you have to do a degree of experimenting, it doesn't always just come like, 'This is it. Here's a set play. Here's a set piece. There's the 15 players'.

"Like, people used to always talk about a settled team and how this was the mark of a great team. Not anymore, in the modern game, a settled team would be a weakness.

"I think you need to be able to have players there that give their best and then you have someone to replace them that adds value.

"So it's a very fluid game and you certainly need your 20 players now to be able to play at a high level.

"People don't come off the pitch anymore because they're not good enough on a particular day, they come off because they've given all they have to give and somebody else has to go in and carry on."

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