Harte pays tribute to Earley ahead of the ultimate test with Donegal
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has paid tribute to Dominic Earley, the young Tattyreagh man who was part of Tyrone's backroom team last year when they won the Ulster Championship and National League Division Two.
Working as a statistical analyst, Earley had joined up with Mattie McGleenan's Cavan and was on his way to Cavan training on June 3 when he was killed in a single vehicle accident outside Tempo in Co. Fermanagh.
"He was a very enthusiastic young man and he had a great love of being involved with teams. Obviously from a statistical point of view and all that, stats was his game," stated Harte.
"I know he had done some work in the world of soccer as well, he had been with various clubs.
"He had this ambition to be involved with teams and to be involved in collation of information that would be of value. That seemed to be his goal.
"He loved sport, he loved Gaelic games particularly and he wanted to learn as much as he could and bring it to different places."
Earley was laid to rest last Wednesday, with his brother Gerard delivering an emotional homage to the type of person he was and the love he held for girlfriend, Maria Harkin.
On Sunday, the Cavan players and management all wore black arm bands in his memory and a minute's silence was impeccably upheld for him and former Fermanagh manager, Hugh McCabe, at the Ulster quarter-final in Breffni Park.
Harte explained the impact on the wider community following his loss, saying: "He is a huge loss. The main thing is that he is a huge loss to his family, his girlfriend and to the Tattyreagh community. You can never look beyond that. That's the real challenge for the people of that area, his community. They are the ones that are going to have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Everyone else will be affected by it right now, but in time they will forget. That's what life's like.
"People who are not immediately and directly involved tend to forget, it's nothing nasty about that, it's just human nature, you forget when you are not directly involved. And I feel for them."
Tyrone head into this weekend's Ulster semi-final against old foes Donegal with a number of injuries clearing up in their defensive ranks. Justin McMahon, the Bête Noire of the Donegal support for his man-marking duties of Michael Murphy, has recently begun playing matches with his club Omagh but is not completing full training sessions with Tyrone.
Meanwhile, Cathal McCarron, who held Murphy scoreless from play in last year's final, is in contention for a starting slot.
Asked if the game may unfold something similar to last year's cautious encounter, Harte held his cards close to his chest.
"I can't be sure how Donegal will play so we will have to wait and see. We know what we would like to do, but at the same time you have to be able to adapt when the opposition play a certain way.
"People might think it is going to be the same, I am not sure it will be. I don't think any two games mirror each other precisely. Basically, you will have the same style of play that prevailed in the Ulster final. I am sure there will be bits of difference in that as well. I don't think it will be a shoot-out at the OK Corral!"
Last year's final was the first time Tyrone had defeated Donegal in Championship football since 2007. In the intervening years, and with the onset of the Jim McGuinness era, Donegal had beaten their neighbours in 2011, 2012, 2013 and, under Rory Gallagher, 2015.
"Obviously there is a bit of history between us. Donegal have held the upper hand for a number of years and I suppose we got that rub of the green last year at a vital time that perhaps in previous encounters we didn't have," admitted Harte.
However, he rejected the notion that last years' final victory was absolutely critical as a psychological boost to the younger Tyrone players, specifically the ones that came through the 2015 Under-21 All-Ireland winning team.
"I have been quoted before saying this, that even though we lost some of those games, I felt we performed very well in the Championship games - in the league games before we didn't perform well in some of them.
"I still felt we had decent performances, and some of those could have gone our way with a little tweak here and there. I did believe we were capable of beating Donegal, even though the record and the history suggested there wasn't great substance for having that belief."