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Title drought has taught us to savour a showpiece: Harte

By Declan Bogue

Peter Harte may have a couple of Ulster medals after eight years in the Tyrone jersey, but he feels he only truly deserves last year's after the epic final 10 minutes of their win over Donegal.

And well he might, for it was his point from 50 yards that edged the Red Hands ahead as the game crept into injury-time.

His previous medal came when he was sent on to replace Brian McGuigan for the last 10 minutes of the 2010 Ulster final, but by that stage Monaghan had been routed by a team that now sounds from another age; Hughes, McConnell, McMenamin, Mulligan, Dooher…

It's no wonder, then, that when he puts his two medals side by side, he feels differently about them.

"In 2010, it was the Tyrone team of the Noughties, the treble All-Ireland winners. Now it is all boys of a similar age, maybe there is a different vibe to the team," the 27-year-old teacher admitted.

"It was the first time you felt like it was your team, your boys that, at the same age, you have grown up with.

"In 2010, there wasn't even two Tyrone fans on the pitch, whereas last year was enjoyed more by the fans and maybe that was because we haven't been as successful. There was a big difference in the two experiences.

"The first year was the same feeling within the team as the last year in that we were very hungry to win medals and do well, so we have to look forward to this week, the chance of winning an Ulster title and being champions again."

As well as the fans' reaction, Harte's feelings about last year's final have to be tangled up in the feeling of kicking that incredible late point. On a scorcher of a day, he took possession 50 yards from the goal, let fly and watched the ball sail over with another 20 yards to spare in an incredible feat of skill.

Asked about his instincts at the time, he replied: "I think sometimes you go on your feeling on the pitch, whether it's a pass, a shot or a bit of a play. It's one of those things, once I got it I felt the shot was on and thankfully it sailed over."

The shot itself was a thing of great artistry, with every part of Harte's body moving as he put all his weight behind it. A YouTube clip from the official GAA account of 'GAA Great Plays' is only 100 plays off 20,000 views at the time of writing.

"At that time, it's just the ball in your hand," he explained.

"You don't have time to be thinking of what the rest of your body is doing. You're just hoping the ball gets over the bar. It's probably one of those things you forget about as time goes on.

"I don't want to dwell on it too much, because you always have to be ready for the next game. If you are thinking about the last game or last year you are going to snooker yourself a bit, so you always have to look forward to the next performance."

The next performance is Sunday's Ulster final against Down.

While the rest of the Gaelic football world outside of Down felt the earth shift after they beat Monaghan in the semi-final, Harte felt differently based on the evidence he saw first-hand.

"I have played a lot of football with the Down boys in college, in the Railway Cup over the last number of years," he said.

"The Down boys are exceptionally talented. They are really good footballers and it didn't surprise me to see Jerome Johnston, Ryan Johnston and all those lads playing well, and Kevin McKernan kicking scores.

"I played with them and saw them do it. They have beaten Armagh and saw off Monaghan and are coming in with good form behind them."

He added: "Hopefully they will not surprise us with their performance because we have seen how good they can be and I am sure they can get even better."

After his first year and that winner's medal, it took Harte another six seasons to experience Ulster Championship final day as a player once again. It has rekindled his, and the wider Tyrone public's, appreciation of the showpiece day.

"They don't come around that easy. Probably my first year on the panel we got to an Ulster final and I thought, 'This is the way it is going to be', but five years later I hadn't won it since," he pointed out.

"You start to realise that it is precious, it is a great place to be and it doesn't come around that often so you have to take that wee bit of enjoyment in being there."

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