Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Tyrone boss Harte optimistic about future

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte enjoys a round of golf
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte enjoys a round of golf

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is urging Ulster to take a positive stance on all fronts as the countdown continues to the resumption of the Allianz Football League.

Harte, perturbed by what he feels is growing negativity, calls for the focus to remain on what he feels are the more credible aspects of the sport.

"When you hear so much talk about possible rule changes, criticism of playing standards and then witness a worrying degree of inconsistent refereeing I suppose there might be cause for concern," reflects Harte.

"But I don't think rule changes are necessary and I also happen to believe that there is some very good football being played by a number of teams right now. I think we need to look at some aspects maybe with a view to effecting improvements but there is certainly no need for crisis talk."

Indeed, Harte, with considerable justification, paints an attractive picture of gaelic football in Ulster right now.

"Ulster are in the inter-provincial football final, there are some particularly tasty league games looming in the province, Cookstown have just won the All-Ireland Intermediate club title for the second time in three years and Crossmaglen were rather unlucky to lose their All Ireland semi-final on Saturday," points out Harte.

"I think a very exciting period is looming ahead and the Allianz League will certainly hot up from the week after next. I have a feeling that fans will flock to the games and I don't think they will be disappointed with the standard of fare that will be on offer."

His own Tyrone side will be very much in the spotlight when the action resumes. Indeed, their match against Donegal on Sunday week at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday week is a re-run of last year's Ulster final and Harte agrees that the venue will be cloaked in a special atmosphere.

"After this game against Donegal, we also have Cork and Kerry at home so I would expect Healy Park to be filled to the rafters. We also go to Dublin and Kildare which would be seen as very attractive matches," states Harte.

The Red Hands may have lived dangerously before collecting maximum points from their two opening games in the top tier of the league but this has merely served to underline their sheer resolve and collective spirit.

Harte's side will now embark on the longer second phase of the competition buoyed by a fresh wave of optimism and buttressed by the kind of playing resources which are the envy of most other counties.

While there is undoubtedly a preoccupation with systems and the pressing of space within gaelic football right now, the Red Hands currently adhere to what could almost be described as a cavalier approach to the mission.

In overcoming Down, Tyrone ensured that the game would unwrap itself as they would have liked, their obstinacy clearly frustrating their opponents while the capture of two points at Mayo's expense was essentially one man's triumph of nerve.

Indeed, the manner in which Stephen O'Neill thundered an 'up and under' towards the Mayo posts in the dying seconds and then swept home the penalty that resulted from Mark Donnelly being impeded encapsulated what inspirational captaincy is all about.

Mayo, a team who are no strangers to misfortune, learned even more about themselves in that game.

The real weakness in their bold façade, the one that keeps showing the view from the back of the film set rather than the front, is a recurrent loss of nerve when the heat is really on.

From a Tyrone perspective, if the occasional accusation of pettiness is the price to pay for taking a decisive step forward, then they will live with that.

Harte has thrown down a challenge of faith to his side and the gauntlet has been picked up with unbridled enthusiasm.

"Derry and Armagh can still make an impact in Division Two and Fermanagh under Peter Canavan are still unbeaten in Division Three so it is all to play for," insists Harte.

"Let's forget about the negative vibes and be as positive as we can as we go forward. Ulster has been setting the trend in various aspects of the GAA and I feel that even more progress can be made – and without resorting to rule changes for the sake of change or the adoption of any other radical measures."

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