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Harte is as hungry as ever after 25 years at Tyrone

By Declan Bogue

In 1991, the GAA was a much different place.

The All-Ireland football title hadn't resided in Ulster since 1968. Jerseys were just getting fitted for their first sponsorship deals, though some counties took their time in taking up the offer. The Errigal Ciaran club was a mere 12 months old.

Without the formation of Errigal Ciaran, it is quite possible that Mickey Harte might have been lost to 'official' GAA. As it was, he now had a club rather than fighting for the establishment of a Glencull club and as such, he was appointed Tyrone minor manager a quarter of a century ago.

Speaking at the recent press night in Garvaghey, he recalled a time before there was a need for such events.

"Unfortunately when we were growing up, the Championship didn't have the same flavour that it does now, there wasn't the same media coverage," recalled Harte, who leads his Tyrone team to Celtic Park for the Ulster series quarter-final against Derry tomorrow.

"Sometimes Championship games were played before you even knew they were on so it is a different era now. With the plethora of media outlets that we have now there is more talk about all of these things and people have to find different things to talk about and rivalry is a good thing to talk about."

After spending the last two and a half decades involved in Tyrone football through under-age to senior level, he is not the sort of man who sticks at something he is not enjoying.

"I have always said ever since I got this job, it's a privileged place to be, to be working with the best Gaelic footballers in Tyrone at a time when they are among the best if not the best in the country which they have been in some years," said Harte.

"That's such a privilege and I will never under-estimate the privilege that it is."

The people of Tyrone have been privileged to have him. Three All-Irelands later, there is now a hunger from within the county for silverware. The Anglo Celt Cup has not been claimed since 2010 and their following have grown hungry for a provincial title.

That journey begins again against Derry, with many drawing comparisons between this current group of Harte's and the crop he inherited in late 2002, with All-Ireland winning minors and Under-21s sprinkled through the line-up.

Harte, however, said: "I don't think that I will ever see the amount of players that came along at the one time from those minors of '97 and '98 and the U21s of 2000 and 2001 again.

"That was a really rich harvest that won't be equalled any time soon but to have the players that we had that came off the back of last season's All-Ireland win was very valuable because there is a winning mentality that comes with that."

And he confirmed what a lot of people think of the modern game. He said: "Believe it or not we are talking about different eras already between '03 and '16. They are very different times to live and very different times to be sports people.

"The modern day Gaelic football athletes are very dedicated. They are totally dedicated to their sport, they look after themselves so well and you know you don't have to think about what they are doing on the nights that they aren't training with you, whereas in '03 I could have had to do that in certain places!

"You would trust them with your life, they want to look after themselves, they want to be in the best possible condition to deliver the best of themselves and they see the challenge there that if they don't do it, someone else will."

After the false war of last weekend, the Championship is about to take off in Celtic Park. Don't miss it.

Belfast Telegraph


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