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Qualifying streak has raised our bar, says Mickey Harte

By John Campbell

Not for the first time, the qualifier route has proved a productive avenue of redemption for Tyrone.

Their Ulster title aspirations may have been laid to rest against a sombre backdrop in Ballybofey in mid-May but since then Mickey Harte's side have slowly but surely regained credibility, respect and, perhaps most importantly, a renewed sense of ambition that has now taken them into an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Kerry that already has the GAA world positively salivating.

Harte is in no doubt that the energy, cohesion and confidence accrued during a smooth back door voyage which saw the scalps of Limerick, Meath, Tipperary and Sligo claimed had much to do with his team's conquest of Monaghan in an All-Ireland quarter-final that had more in common with a bare-knuckle street fight than a clash of skills.

No matter. Harte now knows for sure that his side is in what he describes as "a decent place" after clinically ruining Monaghan's All-Ireland script.

"We had been building nicely through the qualifiers and we had reached a higher level because of these games," maintained Harte.

"Maybe the games that we were playing were better for us than the rest that Monaghan had after their Ulster title win. There is no definitive answer. Monaghan had their rest and were well ready for the quarter-final but I think the game we had against Sligo at Croke Park the previous weekend, along with the fortnight's break we had during the qualifiers, helped give us the right level of competition that we needed. We are now in a decent place."

But Harte is adamant that while his side once again stepped up to the mark in terms of effort and commitment, danger lurked right up until the end.

"We knew with Conor McManus up there in their attack Monaghan were capable of getting scores and we needed a cushion," said the Tyrone boss. "We got that with the three points that came our way just after the break because we could not afford to be hanging on by a point. That cushion was really critical to our success in the second-half."

And it's hot-shot Darren McCurry who perhaps best encapsulates Tyrone's approach to their forthcoming joust with old rivals Kerry.

"Kerry are the All-Ireland champions and we know just how strong they are," maintained McCurry.

"After our loss to Donegal in the Ulster Championship we re-grouped and realised then that we weren't that far away. Our aim was just to be playing football in August. Now we're going in against Kerry and they are playing so well at the minute that it's going to be a huge task. We have a couple of weeks in which to prepare and we will make the most of this."

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke is left to sift through the debris of a performance that left both himself and his players "absolutely gutted."

"Tyrone had momentum built up coming through the qualifiers but still I can't put my finger on just why things went wrong," said O'Rourke. "We were not happy with our performance in the first-half and we had hoped to get a better foothold in the second-half but every time we got a score they were able to come back at us. In the end the better team won."

Belfast Telegraph


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