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Mickey Harte: Hunger is still driving Tyrone on

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte admits it was “understandable” that some people should have been questioning his side’s hunger earlier in the year.

On the eve of tomorrow’s mouth-watering showdown with Dublin, Harte contemplates a season to date that started with some 10 players recovering from injuries, then threatened to degenerate following relegation to Division Two of the National League before a gradual Championship rehabilitation sparked fresh optimism.

Even when there were murmurings within the county that the zest for more silverware might have deserted his players, Harte’s stoic belief in their thirst for a further helping of glory remained unwavering.

“I suppose the fact that the bulk of this squad have been together for several years and have grown accustomed to winning Ulster and All Ireland titles caused people to think that they might not have wanted any more,” says Harte.

“That’s understandable in a way but the fact is that these players do want more — a lot more.”

And he believes that their recent renaissance will send his players into tomorrow’s confrontation with the Dubs in the best possible mental frame.

“We knew going into the Ulster final that Monaghan had a lot of reasons for wanting to win that game but so too had we.

“The fact that we were ahead by three points at half-time gave us great confidence and we were able to push on from there.

“We as management knew that the boys had a serious desire to win this year’s Ulster title, we know the quality within the side and I expect this to be on show again tomorrow,” insists Harte.

No sooner had his side been paired with Dublin in the All Ireland quarter-finals than Harte set to work preparing his strategic blueprint for tomorrow’s tie conscious that Pat Gilroy’s team have an almost overpowering hunger to come out on top given that Tyrone beat them in the All Ireland quarter-finals in 2005 and 2008.

“Dublin have recaptured their season through the qualifiers by beating Tipperary, Armagh and Louth who are no bad teams. They will be playing in front of their huge army of fans in Croke Park but we traditionally are very comfortable there too.

“Anything that we have accomplished in the championship will count for nothing if we can’t build on it tomorrow,” observes Harte with typical candour.

His team may have been guilty of some wayward shooting in the Ulster final but far from criticising his players, Harte will happily settle tomorrow for a repetition of the chances that were created against Monaghan.

“I am always more encouraged to see chances being created even if scores do not come from them all. It means Tyrone are in possession, we are playing the game in the opposition half and we are keeping them on the back foot.

“We will need to do this for the greater part of the game tomorrow if we are to win,” stresses Harte.

And conscious that the Dubs see tomorrow as a golden opportunity to cement their claims for All Ireland glory, the Red Hands boss sounds a note of caution.

“While we had a good day in the Ulster final, it’s what we do tomorrow that will determine how we are viewed,” adds Harte.

“That’s why it is so important that we produce an even better display than we did against Monaghan. If we can manage this then I don’t think we will be too far away.”

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