Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Tyrone boss Harte tips Donegal for more glory

Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter Final between Donegal and Tyrone at Pirc MacCumhaill, Ballybofey, Co Donegal
Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter Final between Donegal and Tyrone at Pirc MacCumhaill, Ballybofey, Co Donegal
Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter Final between Donegal and Tyrone at Pirc MacCumhaill, Ballybofey, Co Donegal
Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter Final between Donegal and Tyrone at Pirc MacCumhaill, Ballybofey, Co Donegal
Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter Final between Donegal and Tyrone at Pirc MacCumhaill, Ballybofey, Co Donegal
Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter Final between Donegal and Tyrone at Pirc MacCumhaill, Ballybofey, Co Donegal

Tyrone have been here before, out of the Championship even as June begins to make an appearance, but Mickey Harte was not going to start pointing fingers at some slack officiating in Ballybofey which could have hurt his team.

Whenever Niall Morgan lined up his six kicks, he found the goalposts hard to locate, with Donegal men standing too close for comfort.

Referee Joe McQuillan took a relaxed approach to their distance from the ball. It certainly wasn't 13 metres anyway, but it wasn't until midway through the second half before he did anything about it. By that stage, Morgan's will was already shot to pieces, his spirit broke.

"There are plenty of officials around the place to know what 13 metres look like and I think it is time that they started to count a wee bit better. It's up to them to do that, I can't make them do it but I would suggest that it is a good idea," was the closest Harte came to a grumble, before he added; "I don't know that was a factor.

"Sometimes kickers have a day like that. In the league final he could not miss a kick and today he missed several of them. That's life. He is still a very good place kicker and I have no doubt we will see him kicking over points again."

He was prompted further on the penalty shout for Mark Donnelly early in the second half. Perhaps it wasn't in the realms of a 'stonewall' decision, but he was pulled to the ground in the box.

"I would not have been close enough to have a view on it but it was not about refereeing decisions today. Donegal were better than us and we have to accept that," said a gracious Harte.

As Tyrone frustration grew, tempers reached boiling point with Stephen O'Neill among those involved in confrontations. So where does that leave Donegal in the public imagination? It was said that they were going for a big squeeze, like a student doing some frantic cramming for exams, having left it too late for measured study. But then they turned all that logic on its' head with this display.

"In the last two years the exact same thing was said," answered manager Jim McGuinness. "The only difference this year was that we were relegated. It was the media who made the story out of that. We had the exact same approach as we had last year. There was a lot of talk about putting all the eggs into one basket, but it was the same last year and the same the year before. That's what we do – it's Championship football.

"It will be no different next year. It was a media spin that got the whole debate going. Next year we will put all our eggs in that basket again.

"They threw everything at us. Tyrone had the lion's share of possession in the middle of the park for long periods. Ross Wherity and Martin McElhinney going in opened up the pitch and turned the game for us. It was a very tough battle. When you're in a battle like that, most of the time it can go either way and we're delighted that we've come out on the right side of it."

And after that, it was back to familiar McGuinness themes. Not a day for getting carried away, even though the crowd indulged in a bout of singing 'Championees' when it was all sewn up with a few minutes left.

"The bottom line is, we have won in the first round of the Championship. I have said all along that our preparation was for this day and now our preparation is for the next day.

"We won't be getting caught up in any hysteria in the county. The players know where they're at. They have had the exact same approach to each game. We prepare as best we can, we respect the opposition and we try to get the gameplan right."

More than getting the gameplan right, they haven't put a foot wrong. It was a fact acknowledged by Mickey Harte when he was pressed on their potential in the short-term.

"They are a very good side and I think they are improving season on season. That was evidence out there today. There were times when we had a foothold in the game but they still hung in there. We were creating chances but we weren't putting them away," Harte said.

"They have a very good gameplan... they are developing it all the time. Their players are growing in confidence and there is no doubt they are very serious contenders for the All-Ireland, I'm sure."

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