Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Harte down but not out as Tyrone seek to rebuild

Mickey Harte has never been given to knee-jerk reactions. Ice-cool analysis, calm reflection and studied thoughtfulness are very much his stock-in-trade qualities.

So it is hardly surprising that the long-serving Tyrone boss is reluctant to ponder what might happen in the future as he continues to dissect his team’s shattering All-Ireland quarter-final defeat at the hands of an inspired Dublin side.

Yet it is anticipated that Harte will continue given his superb track record and his desire to restructure his side for the future.

The Red Hands may have lost in the end by seven points on Saturday but that margin clearly could have been much greater — a fact that is readily acknowledged by Harte.

“Sometimes you have to say that your opponents were better and deserved their victory,” observed the manager.

“They are a very good side, they adapted to the conditions very well and put serious pressure on us.”

And in a clear message to those who might predict that the defeat marked the end of the Tyrone management and team as we have all come to know them since 2003 he spoke in a characteristic forthright manner.

“When you are defeated in the championship people begin to write obituaries of the players and manager, I don't think that is fair,” stated Harte.

Tyrone may have been outclassed in terms of skill but they never shirked the enormous challenge which confronted them nor did they deviate from sportsmanship in a match which yielded just four yellow cards.

“We could have been whitewashed in the second-half but the players fought on and kept an air of respectability to the score,” said Harte.

“We were a long distance behind at the break but Dublin continued to play well in the second-half.

“We needed a goal and while we had a few half chances, it didn't happen.”

The towering performance of Dublin full-forward Diarmuid Connolly was central to their victory and Harte did not seek excuses for his team’s inability to contain the metropolitan side’s attacking ace.

“At half-time we could have brought on six players but when Diarmuid Connolly is in the form he was in, when he brings out that quality, he is a real handful,” Harte added.

“So when you think you can deal with the two Brogans, what can you do? You do your best but sometimes it is not good enough.”

When Dublin defeated Tyrone last year, several Red Hands’ players remained on the playing pitch for some time after the game leading to speculation that they had played their last game at Headquarters.

That same scenario pertained on Saturday night but Harte stressed afterwards that both he himself and his players will make their own individual decisions in relation to their futures.

“Everyone can make up his own mind in his own time as to his future plans and needs space and time to reflect on this,” added Harte.

Many of the current Tyrone squad have been playing together since 1998 when they were in the side that beat Laois in the All-Ireland Minor final.

hose players have taken part in national finals at Minor, Under 21 and Senior levels under Harte and won them all as well as winning the 2002 National League under Art McRory and Eugene McKenna.

Now players like Ryan McMenamin, Brian Dooher, Kevin Hughes, Conor Gormley, Enda McGinley, Stephen O’Neill, Brian McGuigan and Owen Mulligan may well reflect on their ongoing involvement with a side that must embrace change.

They will do so knowing that their efforts and those of their colleagues on Saturday elicited warm praise from Dublin manager Pat Gilroy.

“Tyrone made life very difficult for us at times but we got a bit of a golden patch just after half-time and I think that proved the key to our win,” said Gilroy.