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Joe Kernan: Mickey Harte can follow in footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson

Two of the most distinguished managers in their respective sports are Sir Alex Ferguson and Mickey Harte.

Maybe there is a gulf in terms of global profile and earning power between them but when it comes to man-management, motivational skills and absolute passion for their roles, they are very much singing from the same hymn sheet.

Their teams found themselves engaged in matches last week-end that were significant — but for rather contrasting reasons.

When Manchester United beat Manchester City in the Charity Shield 3-2 after having gone 2-0 down at one stage, Ferguson was clearly ecstatic at the end. But does who wins the Charity Shield matter at the end of the day? Not really.

Ferguson’s delight was actually occasioned by the fact that his side, with an average age of 22 prior to the arrival of the vastly experienced Berbatov as a substitute, had, by dint of their skill, courage and commitment, shone a beacon of light for the Premiership campaign that lies again.

Once again firm evidence that Ferguson’s inherent ability to re-build a side had been provided.

This is an important trait which he also shares with Harte. From he first ventured out as a successful Minor boss with Tyrone in the 90s and then attained All Ireland Under 21 success, Harte flashed out the message that he had the credentials to go a long way in management.

And so it has proved. Three All Ireland titles at senior level since his debut season in charge in 2003 bear glowing testimony to his dedication to the Tyrone cause and to his penchant for eliciting consistent performances from his players.

One of the reasons for this is the respect and loyalty which Harte accords his players, in much the same way that Ferguson has always been hugely protective of his prized playing assets.

But while Ferguson would appear to have once again unearthed a tranche of fresh talent and stitched it together to form yet another winning tapestry, Harte now finds himself tasked with coming up with a new-look Tyrone side which might prove capable of following in the footsteps of the outfit which has written such a glorious chapter in the county’s sporting history.

In the wake of that shattering

All Ireland quarter-final defeat by Dublin, Harte has remained cool and composed, pinpointing the reasons for the Dubs victory as he sees them and quite rightly praising his own side for never giving up the ghost despite the enormity of the challenge they faced.

And he has made it clear that there will not be a wholesale clear-out in Tyrone. Why should there be indeed?

A number of players who have been regulars in the side are certain to remain on while several who have been on the fringes of regular recognition will now get the chance to establish their own niche in Harte’s line-up.

It is not as if the Red Hands have to start all over again — indeed, the transition was quietly initiated some months ago when it is considered that players such as Davy Harte and Ryan McMenamin were overlooked for defensive roles while others like Tommy McGuigan, Kyle Coney and Martin Penrose were used only spasmodically |in attack.

Now though, just as famous names like Keane, Van Nistelroy, Beckham, Cantona and Scholes took their final curtain-call at Old Trafford, players like Brian Dooher, Conor Gormley, Brian McGuigan, Philip Jordan and Stephen O’Neill are likely to step down out of the spotlight having rendered outstanding service to the cause.

They and their colleagues have brought immense pleasure to many thousands of Tyrone fans over the last eight years and in the process have been wonderful ambassadors for the province.

They owe Tyrone and Ulster nothing and they deserve time and space in which to reflect on their futures.

Should Tyrone’s more venerable campaigners decide to call it a day, they will find that life will change. Having spent over a decade in the sporting limelight and having been hailed as role models, the prospect of virtual anonymity may not hold particular appeal.

But their priorities may have changed too and they will surely find a new niche in life.

Like the superstars who graced the red jersey of Manchester United over the course of the last couple of decades, the valiant warriors who waged many successful battles under the red hand banner will justifiably take their place in the annals of sporting history.

Belfast Telegraph

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