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Mickey Harte: I'm in it for the long haul despite no new deal

By Declan Bogue

Published 25/11/2016

Strong words: Tyrone manager Mickey Hearte speaks to the Press from his base in Dubai
Strong words: Tyrone manager Mickey Hearte speaks to the Press from his base in Dubai
Conor McKennaStrong words: Tyrone manager Mickey Hearte speaks to the Press from his base in Dubai and (inset) Conor McKenna SPORTSFILE

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has refuted suggestions that the county's decision to neglect his request for a contract extension was in any way related to concerns about his refusal to engage with RTÉ.

Harte's boycott of the broadcasters stems back to a tasteless radio sketch, which he maintains they have never apologised for. It has been widely circulated in Tyrone that Harte's - and his players' - non co-operation with RTÉ led to dissatisfaction, particularly in relation to media exposure.

Talking in The Piano Lounge of the JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai, where Harte is part of the 2016 All-Stars touring party, the Errigal Ciaran man blew that theory out of the water, stating: "That's a myth altogether.

"That's just stuff that gets into the grapevine, people repeat it and it becomes the truth.

"In fact it's not the truth at all. It's nothing to do with any particular stance that may or may not be taken. But that seems to be thrown into the mix. It sounds like a reason but it is really not at all."

During a successful 2016 in which they collected the O'Fiaich Cup, the Dr McKenna Cup and the Ulster Championship, Tyrone lost only one game all year, the All-Ireland quarter-final to Mayo.

Such an impressive record might hand a manager a mandate to continue but, to widespread surprise, a county board meeting on the matter left Harte without an extension to his term, leaving no arrangement in place beyond 2017.

However, Harte maintained he was at peace with his circumstances.

"I am fine because I believe I do the best I can every year I have ever had a Tyrone team at any level. I put my heart and soul into it. I will always do that," he said.

"Over the years, when I started with the minors, I have said this many times, you leave it up to the county board. You leave it up to the people who decide who manages and who doesn't. I am eternally grateful to the county board that operated from 1991 to 1998 because I had the Tyrone minors at that stage. If it had been on a results-based analysis, I wouldn't have been there in 1997 or '98, or long before it.

"But the fact they knew it was a work in progress, that there was a quality programme put in place to establish young players with the right attitude to becoming the best they could be, then I think that's why I survived as a manager then."

He continued: "I don't believe in that kind of context that I should be worried about 'is it results going to keep me here, or is it a quality of what is being carried on?'

"So I am happy in what I am doing. If it turns out that somebody believes it is not good enough, well, that's their choice. I wouldn't be shouting from the rooftops about it. Obviously you would be annoyed if you felt you were doing your best and somebody else didn't think it was good enough, that's fair enough."

In typical style, though, he got his point across that he expects to continue well past what will be his 27th consecutive season in charge of a Tyrone county team when he added: "I think that there is a great group of players there at the minute, they have good confidence in each other and I think that we will work together for some time."

In recent weeks, one of the highlights of the promotion-relegation battles in the Tyrone leagues was the performances of Conor McKenna.

The 20-year-old earned lavish praise for his displays for Eglish while at home on a break from his flourishing Australian Rules career with Essendon, where he has secured another one-year extension.

The chances of tempting him to remain at home and resume his Tyrone career are slim though, according to Harte, who revealed that he had several conversations with McKenna before he left, invoking the legacy that Sean Cavanagh, another man pursued by AFL scouts, has created as a Red Hand.

"When I saw that he was signing for Essendon for another year it doesn't matter to me how he is at the minute. If he was home to stay I'd be looking at him closely but I'll have to wait until that's out of his system because there's no point in hankering after somebody who's got a different career plan in mind for himself and his life," said Harte.

"When he's gone, he's gone and he has to be let do that. If he ends that career of his own choice and makes himself available for Tyrone, I know he has great potential to be a Tyrone player and I'll be very interested in him. But as things stand at the minute I'm more interested in the boys who will be around Tyrone next year."

Belfast Telegraph

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