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Mickey Harte's boys learn lessons from defeat

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has insisted that his side have learned their lessons from painful defeats to Kerry, as they prepare for the upcoming All-Ireland semi-final against the Kingdom.

The 10-point Round Three qualifier defeat in 2012 was the first time that Kerry beat Tyrone in Championship football under Harte's watch, and he considers it a pivotal moment in the development of his latest Tyrone edition.

"It was one of those landmark times. There were a few other times as well that we shipped a bit of a beating that wouldn't have been par for the course in the previous eight or 10 years," reflected Harte.

"We have had to learn from some hurtful defeats and obviously our league defeat to Kerry in Killarney, less time ago, wasn't pleasant either."

That evening in Kerry was the birth of some inter-county careers, but the final bum note of others.

Ryan McMenamin and Brian McGuigan departed after the game, while Owen Mulligan was not invited to join up with the 2013 panel after his involvement with Cookstown's run to an All-Ireland Intermediate title concluded.

However, the seeds of a new team were sown.

As painful an evening as it might have been for him up against a driven Paul Galvin, it was Ronan McNamee's introduction to the big time.

The rebuilding job started there.

It continued after a routing in Killarney in the 2014 league, on a day that James O'Donoghue hit a hat-trick of goals.

"I suppose there was a transition in our team at the time," continued Harte.

"A lot of the men that had soldiered well for us for a lot of years were getting to the end of their career.

"It was a question of, maybe there wasn't enough good, young players ready to take their place.

"Really, we had to balance that a bit and maybe that's what took a little bit more time to arrive close to where we are now.

"It's all in the name of the game to make that transition from keeping as many of the good, experienced players as you can, as long as it fits in as long as it fits in with the plan or the strategy you want to play."

Harte also touched on how modern day systems have made Gaelic football a young man's game, explaining: "It's not easy to play the modern game with men in their 30s, in numbers.

"You can handle a few of them, but you can't have the majority of them.

"Maybe it took that little bit of time for us to have just a few in that category, and others who have the potential to go for 70 minutes in an intense game."

With the All-Ireland semi-final looming on Sunday week, the Red Hands supremo has declared himself satisfied with their work so far, but reminds us that stiffer challenges await.

"It's always satisfying when you see progress and you see new players coming along, being able to hold their own with the best players in the country," he said.

"I have found that with our squad this year.

"They have held their own with the teams who are perceived to be the top teams in the country.

"That's very encouraging for me and I believe it's very encouraging for our players as well.

"I like the way they are going, but again, it is the next game that will determine how near they are to where they want to be."

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