Tuesday 25 June 2019

Mickey Harte: 'I feel hurt about this but it's not the real hurt of loss, that's something much worse'

Mickey Harte continues to maintain his sense of perspective. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Mickey Harte continues to maintain his sense of perspective. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Mickey Harte never loses his sense of perspective in victory or defeat and it's easy to see why he has managed to remain fresh at the Tyrone helm during his 16 seasons in charge.

While it's obvious by his demeanour that Sunday's All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin hurts him to the core, the Red Hand boss has suffered too much in his 66 years, with tragedy visiting both his family and his team, to lose sight of the bigger picture.

Harte recently documented his two-year battle with bladder cancer which was "a shock to the system" when Tyrone weren't motoring particularly well having suffered relegation to Division 2 in 2015.

The three-time All-Ireland-winning manager felt it "seemed like things were taking a turn for the bad" and he wasn't exactly flavour of the month in the county at the time, but he powered through and came out the other side as always.

As he affords the waiting media more time than most would on the morning after their dreams of lifting Sam Maguire were dashed by the the Dubs, he knows that this loss will eventually dissipate, whereas others won't.

"The different perspective is that I have to think and balance all of these things and how football can become a life-and-death issue for people who have never experienced life-and-death issues," Harte said at a sombre CityWest Hotel.

"I understand that and they're passionate about the sport and they're heartbroken about this so I would never take away from their sort of sense of hurt or loss, I perfectly understand it, but I would like them to think outside the box as well.

"There's many worse things that you can wake up to on a Monday morning. Just think about that, that people have to think and wake up to those things, things that are (a) more permanent loss or hurt. 

A dejected Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, with his son Tyrone physio Mark Harte after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
A dejected Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, with his son Tyrone physio Mark Harte after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

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"I'll think about their hurt and loss as football people and fanatics and I appreciate that and I empathise with it but I'd ask them to think about how people wake up to something that can never be the same again.

"And there's never another chance to get back to where you'd like to be. And then they'll begin to understand that while it may be life and death in words, in real terms it's not. There's more important things.

"I would have probably been more heartbroken about this if life had been different in our case. But the fact that I know something that's much, much worse and never could be compared to this, then I feel hurt about this but it's not like the real hurt of loss."

During that difficult period dealing with illness, Harte admits that football was a key driver to keep him positive and motivated, despite people within the county calling for his head.

"I suppose, (there were) moves afoot to try to get me to go or to get ... the need for change, as often happens in peoples' minds. It was important that I had the football to take my mind to other things and to have something to drive for," he said.

"For every sort of bad day there's always a good day and maybe that's the way of life. Enjoy the times that are good and then manage the things that are not."

After 10 years waiting to get back to football's showpiece and then watching their dreams go up in smoke in five first-half minutes when a 0-5 to 0-1 lead was quickly turned into a 1-4 to 0-5 deficit, Harte has more desire for success than ever and has no plans on going anywhere.

"I don't need anything to make me hungrier to be quite honest with you. I have just got an insatiable appetite for working with quality players, and I feel it as a privilege," he said. "I have seen it as nothing but a privilege to work with the best players at any age level in our county. This to me just gets better and better. The fact that this is a completely new team; none of them had started an All-Ireland senior final.

"This to me is just a wonderful opportunity to experience something really new and to bring a new and young set of players to the highest level if we can. I believe it's possible, they believe it's possible, we have to go and do what will be required to make it possible."

Tyrone's squad waited on the Croke Park sod as Jim Gavin's Dubs soaked in a famous four-in-a-row, but Harte hopes his troops were craving to be in their position, and will get their soon.

"These young men never really experienced it in anyway, so maybe it was just those young men savouring those moments as well. Maybe there's something in them saying 'I've watched this from the floor here, I'd like to watch it from the stands'."

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