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Harte inspired by spirit of Tyrone battlers

By Declan Bogue

No excuses from Tyrone manager Mickey Harte at the end of this drama.

There was an opt-out clause of Marty Duffy's reluctance to award Sean Cavanagh a late free that Niall Morgan – presumably – would have converted to take this into extra-time, but he batted it away.

"Many times you would get a free for it, the referee chose not to give a free for it this time. It's his call and we have to go with that," he said after Dublin denied him what would have been only his second league title.

Harte added: "We would have loved to have got a free and on occasions we would have got a free there, so we can't hinge our memories on that, we have to say that this was a really good game of football, both teams played it in a great spirit, there were lots of scores there and a lot of entertainment."

During the week, the betting odds on Tyrone drifted out to 3/1 with some generous turf accountants, yet it is no stretch of the imagination to say they had the winning of this game in their grasp.

A few crucial errors in the last 10 minutes at their own hands was the problem.

For sure, Tyrone wanted to win it badly, according to their manager.

"It is a very difficult loss for the players because they put such a huge effort in and when you put that effort in for 71 minutes and you don't get anything out of it, it is disappointing but that is life," he added.

"Coming here nobody expected us to be as close as that to Dublin, we believed that we would be and there is some consolation in that.

"We were in the driving seat in terms of the scoring difference for a good bit of the game even though it was only marginal."

The question that everyone wanted answered was what prevented Stephen O'Neill from starting.

"Stephen was just doing the warm-up and accidentally stepped back on top of a football and he went over on his ankle and went down," added Harte.

"He was not going to be able to play because it was too sore to be able to twist and turn ... he just knew between himself and the physio that it was not going to work today.

"It just reminded me of a thing that happened a few years ago," he added. "We were warming up inside and Sean Cavanagh stepped on a bottle and went over on his ankle and caused us a lot of consternation."

While the next few weeks will be filled with apprehension over the state of O'Neill's ankle before the first round game against Donegal, Connor McAliskey was an able deputy and the team as a whole looked organised, slick and an outfit that mean business in the summer.

"People talk about results and performances and you can get a result that is good and a performance that is mediocre," explained Harte.

"Sometimes you get a decent performance and a poor result and maybe this was one of those days.

"I think it was good for those new players that were playing in league final for a first time, the fact that they competed well.

"There was no secret in the fact that Dublin were the in-form team throughout this league, they were scoring for fun and they were playing with a lot of confidence and that we were able to match them for so long was encouraging.

It doesn't give you any trophies unfortunately but we will take consolation from the level of performance.

"We must reach that level of performance if we want to be competing in the summer."

And they will. Nothing surer.

Belfast Telegraph


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