Tyrone can take Harte from team spirit
There's always been a real earnestness about Tyrone wing-back Peter Harte and that certainly shone through against Dublin.
When the Dubs laid siege to the Tyrone goal early on in Sunday's 3-10 to 1-15 win for the league champions, several tiny things all combined to leak two early goals.
During the first goal, the marking was slack and while the Dublin attack strung a necklace of hand-passes together before James McCarthy's somewhat fortuitous shot dipped under the crossbar, it was notable that not one tackle went in to pressure the ball.
The second goal was a ball that Kyle Coney failed to control. The flying Jack McCaffrey nipped in to win the break and when Michael Darragh Macauley sent a brilliant fist-pass to Jason Whelan, he was already goal-side of the Tyrone defence.
Try as he might, his marker Peter Harte could not make up the ground to the Ballymun man, who produced a cool slide-rule finish underneath Niall Morgan.
Most players in a post-match interview would ignore that inconvenient truth. Harte brings it up himself, however.
Describing the whirlwind start for Dublin and Tyrone's impressive comeback to momentarily draw level in injury time, the Errigal Ciaran man said: "I let my man get in for a goal and the Dubs punish you.
"They hit the ground running and it took us a while to get going, but after that we grew into the game and perhaps at half-time we could have been closer to them, only we missed a few scores.
"We knew in the second half that if we kept going and got a few more scores on the board that we would claw them back. It was gutting in the end up to give away that last score."
While Tyrone were unable to reach the league semi-finals for the second year running, they will have much food for thought after the one-point loss to the Dubs.
Once again, it was shown up that they have a soft centre in their defence. Only the two relegated sides – Kildare and Westmeath – conceded more in this years' Division One.
Yet, there were causes for optimism also. In recent years when Tyrone have lost a match, it tended to be something of a collapse, with discipline deserting them on occasion.
After Kerry dished out a hammering earlier this year in Killarney, the early Dublin goals made this game feel like something similar was on its way.
However, Tyrone stuck manfully to their task and by injury-time, Mattie Donnelly's inspirational point drew them level, only for the imperious Diarmuid Connolly to have the final word with a beautiful outside of the boot effort after he wriggled himself into a yard of space.
Even at that, Tyrone launched another attack, Sean Cavanagh's final effort hanging up in the breeze and drifting wide with the last kick of the game.
Many in attendance were disappointed that only two minutes was awarded for injury-time given the numerous stoppages that occurred throughout.
While Harte made the point that when you are playing, you pay little heed to the clock in the corner of the field, he agrees that the system of calculating injury time could be reviewed.
"It's probably something they could look at, because I don't ever think the injury time matches the play time, but that's out of your hands when you are playing the game."
In six weeks' time, Down will be in Healy Park for the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship. The two met in 2008 at the same venue, Down forcing a replay and then sealing that win in extra-time after a famous tussle in Newry.
It will be a novel April for Tyrone. For the last couple of years they have been engaged in Division Two and then Division One finals and so the players have remained in the inter-county bubble. Now, they instead will turn their attentions back to the club scene, with the first round of domestic league fixtures this coming Sunday.
It might also give them a bit of breathing space to focus on Down, instead of displaying everything they have in high-profile games in Croke Park.
Harte has already turned his gaze to Down, giving the performance against Dublin some context when he said: "We were punished early but thankfully we had enough time to do something. It was early in the game and we got back into it then.
"You just have to learn your lesson. If you are not ready you will be punished, and we have to be ready for Down as they will look to punish us as well.
"That's what you have to focus on and the team that does get a run on you, once they have the momentum it's a big thing in Gaelic football so it's what we have to learn and get better at over the next few weeks."