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Determined Harte prepares to counter a Meath backlash

By Declan Bogue

Back when Tyrone beat Meath in the 2013 Championship, they wore the logo of crisp manufacturer Hunky Dorys on their jersies. The Royals wore the unmistakable Tayto logo. For some time later, even the GAA's official website had the subheading; 'El Crispico' above the result.

Meath had dumped Mickey Harte's side out of the 2007 All-Ireland race at the quarter-finals stage, so understandably, the long-serving manager sees the series at one-each.

"It was a close affair and we got through by a couple of points. That was one back and I think there are a few others that we owe them for," he recollects.

In hosting Meath in Healy Park today, he knows they are dealing with a wounded animal, Westmeath having beaten them for the first time in Championship history in the Leinster semi-final.

"That's the talk coming out of the county," acknowledges Harte.

"They are being berated at large for the fact that underperform in the second half. It was very unlike them.

"I think there would be a backlash anyway because they know they played good enough football to be in the Leinster final, and they are not. It's a great chance for redemption to come up to Tyrone and beat us."

He also believes that this is the type of game Meath thrive in, especially when they are up against the court of public opinion. Harte reasons: "If you were to ask a real, true Meath man, they would say it is a good draw for them. They are getting a team supposedly with a history of being good in the last number of years, if not so recently. They still see Tyrone as a scalp worth taking and it gives them a chance to raise their standard of game and gain some redemption."

Seven weeks after their defeat in the Ulster preliminary round to Donegal, Tyrone got their season back on track with an unfussy and frill-free win over Limerick. It extended their impressive record under Harte of having never lost a first round qualifier tie.

It also provided a much-needed win in Healy Park, a venue in which they failed to gain a win in four league games this season.

Harte had his own ideas on that, countering, "Some people may look at the fact we have lost a certain amount of games in Omagh over the past few years but there have been some very good performances and even this year against Cork and Kerry who contested the Munster final and have been given great accolades for the way that they played.

"We drew with Kerry and some would say we drew with Cork as well even though we did not get the point. But we performed well - sometimes it's not all about winning or losing, sometimes it is about performances so it would be great if the crowds would come out in numbers. I think that brings players on - when players are doing something well, the crowd roars and it echoes out of the stand."

Given the history between these two teams he expects to see a bigger crowd than the patchy attendance at the Limerick game, adding, "It is a great fillip for those on the ball and it makes you feel like this is the real deal. I expect it will attract a good crowd when we consider who the opposition are."

TYRONE (v Meath, Saturday, Healy Park, 3,30pm): N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, J McMahon, P Harte; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; T McCann, R O'Neill, R Brennan; D McCurry, S Cavanagh (C), C McAliskey

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