Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has hailed Donegal’s achievement in retaining the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup even though he is consumed with disappointment following the serious arm injury sustained by ace forward Stephen O’Neill during Saturday night’s final at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.
Harte, who steered Tyrone to four successive successes in the competition from 2004 to 2007 had indicated his desire at the start of the competition to reclaim the trophy, but found his hitherto rampant outfit suddenly halted in their tracks by a workmanlike Donegal side who maintained momentum through an extended period of added time.
While O’Neill’s injury clearly disturbed Harte, the triple All Ireland winning boss subsequently handed plaudits to Donegal and their manager John Joe Doherty,
“Obviously we are very disappointed at the seriousness of Stephen’s injury, but it was a complete accident — anyone could see that,” said Harte.
“I think people thought it was actually more serious than it was. Having said that, we must not take away from Donegal’s performance. They worked very hard overall and while the sting seemed to go out of our challenge in the second-half for obvious reasons, Donegal were still hungry enough to keep going and their winning goal proved a killer blow from our viewpoint.”
A trenchant critic of the experimental rules, he reiterated his desire to see them shelved although he is resigned to seeing their continued employment in the National League.
“I repeat that I believe the rules are change for the sake of change,” said Harte.
“I happen to believe that there is nothing wrong with gaelic football the way it is played without these rules, but we will now have to focus on their use in the National League.”
Donegal manager John Joe Doherty, not surprisingly following his side’s collapse after their McKenna Cup triumph last year, declared that his side will not be carried away following this early-season fillip.
“It’s nice to win a trophy, but our main focus is on the league,” he said.
“I thought the boys worked hard against Tyrone and the way they stuck to their task to get what was an excellent win was encouraging.
“We have a few more players to come in and competition for places in the team is being stepped up all the time. The new boys have been shaping up well, but the league will be a big test for us all.”