Harte hoping to March on with Tyrone victories
Mickey Harte is nothing if not a realist.
Sporting clichés may be the staple diet of a plethora of managers, coaches and players in various codes but triple All Ireland winning boss Harte invariably prefers to tell it like it is.
And he is particularly forthright in assessing Tyrone’s mission against Monaghan in their National Football League Division One clash at Grattan Park, Inniskeen on Sunday.
“There can be no camouflaging this issue. This is an extremely important game for both teams. If we lose we will be in a very bad place, it’s as simple as that.
“The venue offers an excellent playing surface and it’s up to us to do ourselves justice on it,” says Harte.
Injuries and suspensions may have taken a toll on his resources since the start of the year and contributed to Tyrone’s nil return in terms of league points to date, yet Harte has steadfastly refused to seek refuge in excuses.
Rather, his oft-quoted mantra that “the team that does duty on any given day shoulders the responsibility for winning” has served him particularly well since he stepped down as Errigal Ciaran boss at the end of 2002 to embark on a journey that has since taken him into the annals of GAA folklore.
Joe McMahon, one of his most trusted foot-soldiers, is unavailable for the eagerly-awaited showdown with Seamus McEnaney’s troops on Sunday but the return of Conor Gormley, Justin McMahon, Martin Penrose, Owen Mulligan and Raymond Mulgrew to his squad prompts Harte to hail what he views as “a plus-factor of four”.
Those defeats to date, by Derry and Mayo, may have left a nasty taste in the mouth of Tyrone fans, not least because of the element of controversy that accompanied them.
But Harte prefers to contemplate what he views as a particularly demanding month for his team.
“We are entering a high-pressure period. After Monaghan on Sunday we must take on Cork, Galway and Kerry and this gives some indication of just how tough things are going to be. This will be a defining month for many teams, I feel,” suggests Harte.
The restoration of Justin McMahon and Conor Gormley to his defence and the possibility of a cameo appearance by Sean Cavanagh fuel the hope that the Red Hands can turn the corner in the league.
But Harte is fully aware that Monaghan’s voracious hunger for points will spark a contest of championship-style intensity.
“Like ourselves, they have no points yet and will not want to make it three losses on the trot,” admits Harte.
Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney has blooded eight league debutants but will look to senior citizens like Dermot McArdle, the Freeman brothers Tommy and Damien and Vincent Corey along with the emerging Darren Hughes and ace finisher Conor McManus to plot a much-needed victory over the Red Hands.
Yet even though the Farney outfit will be given considerable vocal encouragement in what they hope will prove an intimidating atmosphere for their visitors, Harte’s tactical nous coupled with his players’ desire to regain credibility could see the county’s relegation fears eased slightly by Sunday night.
Time will tell.