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Tyrone stars were ready to save Harte's future: Donnelly

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone's Matthew Donnelly has revealed that there was a temptation to intervene as the Tyrone county board deliberated over extending Mickey Harte's role as manager last winter.

Instead, a vote was taken among delegates with only one dissenting voice and so the Errigal Ciaran man entered his 14th season in charge, landing the O'Fiaich Cup, Dr McKenna Cup and Division Two league title in the meantime as the Red Hands compiled a 16-game unbeaten streak. However, Trillick man Donnelly recalled the uneasiness felt at the time. He said: "There was a stage where you felt, 'surely they are not going to do this?'

"You were certainly willing to intervene. Thankfully, someone saw sense. There was a great desire to get Mickey back from the players. Somebody made a logical decision."

Since then, Harte has made the point that he feels he is a better manager. Donnelly believes that the present group of players have matured to the point where they can launch a serious assault on the Anglo-Celt Cup this summer.

"He has touched on it himself. He has players from all age groups and he has given everything in the right direction," the 25-year-old accountant with Pricewaterhouse Coopers said.

"There is great energy, there is a great squad to be around. Managing 30 boys at that level, we are all probably coming from clubs and being the main men, it mightn't be the easiest thing to do.

"But he has it at this stage, he is creating an environment that it is all about the team and all about the squad. That's credit to him."

Tyrone have not reached the Ulster final since 2010 and they get their campaign started on May 22 when they visit the home of neighbours Derry in Celtic Park.

While the Dr McKenna Cup has become the preserve of Tyrone in the last five years, Donnelly feels the panel at present are ready to challenge for summer honours.

"This Tyrone team has a lot of medals coming up through under-age, there is already a winning habit through schools, through under-age. There are All-Ireland medals there with the U21s last year," he added.

"The majority of this team has won more games than they've lost in a Tyrone shirt and obviously with Mickey Harte at the helm, who wants to win every game, the players expect to win."

On their revival last summer after relegation from Division One, he added: "We saw 2014 more as a learning curve than it being all doom and gloom."

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