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Mickey Harte exits Tyrone role but still has a great deal to offer


Outgoing Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

Outgoing Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

�INPHO/Evan Logan

Outgoing Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

Two sporting 'over and out' confirmations within 24 hours were scarcely what the province needed in the throes of a pandemic.

Northern Ireland's disappointing exit from the 2021 European Championships has been followed by Mickey Harte's declaration that he has taken his leave of Tyrone after an 18-year managerial tenure.

When his side lost to Donegal in the quarter-final of the Ulster Championship on Sunday week last, a cloud of uncertainty suddenly - but not surprisingly - enveloped Red Hand territory.

While due deference has been paid since then to Harte's majestic feats with a previously unheralded county, the lavish praise tended to be tainted with the caveat that the iconic team boss might just have run his course.

And so it has come to pass. After much soul-searching and analysis of the situation in which he currently finds himself, Harte has decided to move on.

Understandably, he would have preferred to take the exit door on a high note rather than at the end of one of the most disappointing spells of his management career but then that's the way things tend to be when team bosses cash in their chips.

And Harte certainly stacked up some imposing chips for the Red Hand county during a long career that produced a steady stream of highlights accompanied by the occasional low point.

Three All-Ireland titles in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and half-a-dozen Ulster crowns will always bear ample testimony to Harte's supreme tactical acumen, man management skills and his intense pride in the job.

A familiar figure on the touchline with his recognisable peaked cap, he has been a constant in Tyrone's surge into the spotlight while all the time amending his squad, altering his backroom team and establishing a liaison with the different county board officers who have been in situ during his reign.

Time waits for no man, though.

The absence of the Sam Maguire Cup for the past 12 years could be said as being a key reason for Harte's decision to call time on his role yet the fact he would have relished another year at the helm clearly indicated his belief that Tyrone's fortunes could be overturned in 2021.

That may well happen - but if it does it will be under a new management team.

Mind you, whoever steps into Harte's shoes will soon become totally acquainted with the word 'pressure' if they have not already done so.

But this will not deter those who relish a challenge and, indeed, the opportunity to work with some of the very best players in the country.

Former centre-half-back and ex-U21 boss Fergal Logan could fit the bill given that Harte's assistant Gavin Devlin and Peter Canavan have ruled themselves out of the running. Yet other candidates may surface, spurred by the opportunity to work with a ready-made squad that still possesses enormous potential.

Canavan has been mentioned as a possible successor but has indicated his unwillingness to become a candidate for the post as his son Darragh and son-in-law Peter Harte, Mickey's nephew, are currently members of the squad and likely to remain so.

Whoever takes over as Tyrone boss will have to be on their toes knowing that the sense of frustration and annoyance that has engulfed the county of late will not be easily banished.

Let's face it, expectations are still extremely high in Tyrone. Under Harte, the team were rarely out of the spotlight, if not actually winning trophies then invariably being theere at the death when they were being decided. Indeed, they were pipped at the post more than once in decisive games when trophies were on offer.

He may be in his late 60s but there is no doubt that Harte's appetite for football is as strong as ever.

It is reasonable to assume there are numerous clubs already lining him up to avail of his expertise in some capacity or other.

Shrewd, committed and conscientious, Harte is known for tackling even the most mundane of tasks with enthusiasm and diligence.

In an era when the role of team manager, even at club level, imposes its own enormous demands on the person who holds the reins nothing less than one hundred per cent effort suffices.

There is no doubt that Harte is still capable of delivering on this - indeed, it would be a great pity if someone with his knowledge and astuteness were to be lost to the sport.

What is certain is that he still has more to give.

Belfast Telegraph