Harte savours cup wins while planning for 2016
Tyrone 2-15 Louth 0-08
The second trophy of Tyrone's 2015 calendar year had been lifted by stand-in captain Aidan McCrory, a modest speech had been delivered and manager Mickey Harte faced a sparse gathering of reporters, trying to figure out if the O'Fiaich Cup was a pleasant ending to a mixed season or a promising start to 2016.
"You can call it a bit of both," he settled on.
"It's good to have these two competitive games before Christmas, and this season or last season has just finished now."
Fielding very experimental sides in the two wins over Derry last weekend and Louth, Tyrone's young players captured this trophy with impressive ease. Eight of the starters in Crossmaglen have yet to play in the senior Championship and it would appear that bright futures lie ahead for the likes of Padraig Hampsey and Lee Brennan.
"It's early days yet, there are only two games played and they have had some game time," said Harte of those auditioning. "Some had a game, a game and a half, some had two halves.
"That's in advance of the McKenna Cup, when we can look at these players a bit more. These are two bonus games ahead of the McKenna Cup, which is in preparation for the League. That can only be good."
With 26 minutes gone, the eventual scoreline seemed most unlikely when Louth edged into the lead. Despite having the benefit of a stiff breeze, Tyrone hit ten first half wides.
They came alive with 1-5 in the last seven minutes however, Lee Brennan's place-kicking and growing confidence a feature of that period.
Just prior to half-time, a move went through the All-Ireland under-21 winning captain Kieran McGeary, to Brennan whose pass bobbled loose. Louth goalkeeper Neil Gallagher ran past it which left the maturing Tiernan McCann to scuff home for a goal.
With Harte opting for experience with six substitutes coming in for the second half to counter Louth's wind advantage from kickouts, they scored 1-8 in the second half, toying with their Leinster opposition.
"We knew in the second half they would be going a greater distance, so we put a few big men across the centre that could contest those breaks," said Harte.
The most pleasing aspect of their days work, he added, was: "Just the fact there are a lot of new players in here and we are trying to mould another team. There are players putting their hands up to say they are good enough to be part of this set-up.
"It's getting that mix of experience and new people coming together to play well, to play the football we like played, and being patient.
"That's why they are here. They have the potential to be here and now it is their chance to stay."
"We had to be patient in that first half. If we had been driven by the scoreboard, we wouldn't have been in a good place after 25 minutes. But we weren't, we were driven by performing the way we wanted to and being patient enough."
Assessing the season as a whole, he felt 2015 was: "A mixed bag. A disappointing start in terms of we got relegated, despite playing reasonably well in Division One of the league.
"Getting knocked out of the (Ulster) Championship in the first round (by Donegal) could have set us back to a very bad season. But we regrouped, we recovered from all of that and we arrived in a very good place. Probably could have been even better than that if things had have gone differently on the day."
Harte finished: "That's all history now, the important thing is to build on last year's performance now, because if we can't build on it, it will not be as good as we think it is now."
TYRONE: M O'Neill; A McCrory, P Hampsey, HP McGeary; T McCann 1-0, C Clarke, K McGeary 0-1; H Óg Conlan, R Donnelly 0-1; C McCann 0-1, R O'Neill 0-2, 1f, N Sludden 0-1; P Quinn, L Brennan 0-6, 5f, D Mulgrew. Subs: N Morgan for M O'Neill, M Bradley 0-1, for C McCann, P Harte for Mulgrew, C McAliskey 1-1, for Quinn, P McNulty for Conlan, B Tierney for K McGeary (all half-time), C McShane 0-1, for O'Neill (51m) C McCann for Donnelly (61m)
LOUTH: N Gallagher; P Rath, P Reilly, K Murphy; E Lafferty, D McMahon, D Maguire; T Durnin, D O'Connell; A Reid, M Rafferty 0-1, D Byrne 0-1; G McSorley 0-3, B Flanagan, J McEneaney 0-3, 3f. Subs: K McLoughlin for Maguire (22m), D Quigley for Reilly (half-time), T McEneaney for Flanagan (51m), J Califf for Rafferty (52m), C Lenihan for Murphy (57m)
Referee: Paudie Hughes (Armagh)