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Harte confident his Red Hands are very close to matching Gavin's men

 

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte doesn't buy the theory that his side are all that far away from Dublin after the Metropolitans made it three All-Ireland titles in a row last Sunday.

Speaking ahead of the Celtic Cross Classic, which is in part celebration of Fintona Pearses' Centenary and a joint fundraiser for the Michaela Foundation, Harte stressed his belief that the Red Hands can bridge the gap to a side that are being talked about as the greatest ever.

Many legendary figures from Gaelic football and hurling will descend on the west Tyrone village this weekend, including Sean O'Neill of Down, Kilkenny's DJ Carey, Martin Storey of Wexford as well as other more local figures such as Oisín McConville, Benny Tierney and Peter Canavan, and Harte glowed with pride at the response from the wider GAA community in support of the charity.

"We are thrilled with it," he began.

"I wanted players across the age spectrum such as Sean O'Neill from the '60s. I wanted people across the generations that others around the country would see and think 'I remember that man playing and how good he was'.

"The fact we have a number of top-class hurlers as well, I think that is a bonus. Ulster is seen as the poor relation of hurling whereas people from all over the province want to come and meet these people, like Jamesie O'Connor, like Martin Storey, Eoin Kelly, Anthony Cunningham."

Appointed for another three year term in charge of his county, Harte believes he can set about catching Dublin as they seek to achieve a four-in-a-row in 2018, rejecting the criticism Tyrone have been subject to since their All-Ireland semi-final defeat.

"I am a great believer that you don't judge your season or judge your team on a single defeat. Whenever we were doing well and beating teams comfortably I didn't think we were that far ahead of the teams we were beating, but I felt we had played better than those teams on the day," Harte said.

He was willing to mine the positives from how Mayo performed against the side being hailed as the greatest of all time.

"I suppose the fact that Mayo could go toe to toe with Dublin over three All-Ireland finals, including the drawn game last year, and only be two points behind them after three games, it means they are in touch with what Dublin have to offer," he said.

"We appear to be very close to Mayo over our last two meetings in the league and Championship, there was only a kick of the ball in it.

"It goes to show you, you can't make judgements on other games or other situations."

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