Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Tyrone critics 'lost in a blur of time', argues Harte

Red alert: Mickey Harte has brought 'Sam' back to Tyrone on three occasion and with a turnover of 10 players between 2003 and 2008

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte believes that people can "get lost in a blur of time" when it comes to assessing teams and how they might perform.

At the start of this year, the general perception was that Tyrone were in transition and this was complemented by a widely-held theory that a reconstructed side would not figure in any race for major honours.

But Harte, clearly bemused at what he feels are sweeping generalisations, now makes it clear that to some extent the Red Hands have always been in transition since he took over in 2003.

"What are new teams? When you look at things, it was not the same team that won the All-Ireland three times for Tyrone," points out Harte.

"From the team that won 'Sam' for the first time in 2003, there were five changes for the 2005 final and then five more alterations for the 2008 decider so that's a turnover of ten starting players in those five years.

"People tend to look back at this through a lens that tells them that one outfit did all of this when it is patently not the case. They maybe get lost in a blur of time."

Harte draws a parallel between his All-Ireland winning teams and the Kerry sides that ruled the roost from the mid-70's until the early 80's.

"There is a belief that it was a settled side that brought Kerry their glory in this period but the fact of the matter is that there were changes," stresses Harte.

"I think we were in the same position from 2003 until 2008. Now today we have people from all of those vintages, if you like, complemented by some new men and that's good.

"This is a team that can find their own niche and the fact that they have reached an All-Ireland semi-final is them making a statement to the effect that 'we can do this amount'. Now they have to challenge themselves to do some more."

Just as was the case in 2005 when they played ten games before capturing 'Sam', Tyrone have charted a hazardous course this year to get where they are at now – something that is in sharp contrast to the straightforward passage that Kerry enjoyed to All-Ireland titles in the past.

"We joked among ourselves that in playing ten matches to win 'Sam' in 2005 we participated in as many games as it would have taken Kerry to win three All-Ireland titles back in the 70's and 80's," smiles Harte.

He certainly has a point there. While this may be labelled a golden era for Kingdom football, the team played no more than 15 meaningful games overall to virtually claim ownership of 'Sam'.

Yet Harte has no desire to take up residence on easy street.

"It is a credit to our players that they have taken part in so many close games and won them. That's what makes good teams. It's nice to win by 12 or 14 points but you are not really learning an awful lot about yourself," insists Harte.

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