Mickey Harte eager to stay on at Tyrone
Mickey Harte has given a strong signal that he intends to continue as Tyrone manager beyond 2015 when his current term ends.
He will complete his 13th season in charge next year and is clearly as committed as ever to a position he took over in late 2002.
"As long as I'm happy and enjoy it and the people in the county board want me to continue, then all is well," he said.
Tyrone have enjoyed their most successful period under Harte, winning three All-Irelands, one Allianz League and four Ulster titles in the last 11 seasons.
"It's a privilege to be involved, dealing with the best players in Tyrone. I always saw it as an honour and I always will. It's very rewarding to see players carry on the mantle for Tyrone, keeping standards as high as possible," he said.
The county board reaffirmed its faith in Harte in May 2012 when they announced a three-year extension to his deal. The decision to go public pre-Championship was seen as an unquestioned act of faith in Harte, who enjoys considerable power and influence in Tyrone.
And while the title trail has run cold in recent seasons – the 2010 Ulster Championship was Tyrone's last major success – he retains the county's full confidence.
However, since he remains driven by a deep, personal motivation, the need for more silverware is ever-present. He describes the last few years as "as a work in progress," a period when the squad has undergone considerable change.
"Maybe two-thirds of the panel has changed. That's a lot of change and while we haven't won All-Irelands, we have held our own in the top tier most of the time. That's encouraging, but it can only last for so long – we want to start winning something," he said.
Donegal ended Tyrone's Ulster ambitions for each of the last three seasons while Dublin (2011), Kerry (2012) and Mayo (2013) eliminated them from the All-Ireland race.
The fact that Dublin (2011) and Donegal (2012) went on to win the All-Ireland title proved that Tyrone were beaten by the best around, although they didn't find any solace in that.
It has been suggested that Tyrone haven't adapted to new styles, whether the defensively-minded Donegal approach or the more adventurous Dublin philosophy. In reality, the truth is that Tyrone's failures have been more down to a talent rather than tactical shortage.
Still, the game continues to evolve, something every county must recognise.
"There's a blending of styles going on. Initially, Donegal had an ultra-defensive style and it delivered what they needed at the time.
"But they realised that they needed to move on – not to abandon what they had been doing but to modify and to be innovative with it.
"They managed that. Dublin's emphasis would be more on offence than defence, but they get fellas back when they need to. We're getting a mixture of styles now – teams are trying to get plenty of scores, but you can't leave the back door open either," said Harte. And the Tyrone blend?
"We're trying to get a winning one, whatever is required to win. That's what you have to do. We'll see how the season progresses, but we know what it takes to win games."
There were times in the Ulster preliminary round clash with Down last month when it looked as if Tyrone knew every winning code, only to forget them just as they were about to open the safe. In the end, they needed a point from a long range free by Sean Cavanagh to earn a replay.
"We have to be happy to still be in the Ulster Championship. To survive against Down was a great fillip for us because, after being in command of the first half and having a good period in the second half, it looked that when things mattered most, the game was going to run away from us.
"It was very encouraging to get a draw after that," said Harte.
Tyrone closed out the replay quite comfortably, leaving them with a quarter-final clash against defending champions Monaghan.
Tyrone beat Monaghan by two points in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final, but concede home advantage in Clones this time.