'Who knows?': Harte says Tyrone can challenge Kerry for place in All-Ireland final
Tyrone might have lost their final Group Two game against Dublin, 1-16 to 0-13 in Healy Park yesterday, but with both teams already through to next weekend's All-Ireland semi-finals, there was nothing riding on the result.
However, Donegal, Ulster champions for the last two years, once again crashed out of the Super 8s when they ran out of steam against a determined Mayo team who simply will never quit, the result 1-14 to 1-10 in Mayo's favour in Castlebar.
By coming second in their group, Tyrone now face Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday, with Maurice Deegan already confirmed as the matchday referee.
"Kerry are still the top team in the country as far as the Sam Maguire is concerned," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.
"They always have their eye on that and people always expect them to be big contenders for that and they seldom let people down.
"It is a big battle and we have to bring our best game and we believe we can make it a very competitive game, and then who knows who might win?"
Tyrone manager Harte rejected criticism of the Super 8s format that led to two games yesterday having little purpose.
With Tyrone and Dublin already through to next weekend’s All-Ireland semi-finals and Cork and Roscommon playing in Pairc Ui Rinn in a game with literally nothing at stake, the future of the Super 8s experiment looks unclear.
“There mightn’t have been much at stake here, but did people not enjoy that?” asked Harte.
“Did people not come along here in their droves and enjoy that or were they bored out of their head watching that game? It was interesting for the people who were there, the players didn’t show any sign of ‘I wish we weren’t here’ or ‘This is no big significant game’.
“They gave it all they had and I think that’s lovely on a summer’s day in Omagh to see 15,000 people here.
“I enjoyed that game, even if I didn’t enjoy the outcome.”
Asked if this was an odd game, Dublin manager Jim Gavin — as is his wont — opted for generalities after he made 13 changes from his side’s last game against Roscommon.
“I can’t speak for the opposition but from our perspective, we have great trust and great faith in the squad,” he said.
“We see what they do each week representing the county and I’m just delighted for those players, both young and old, who performed there for Dublin.
“Every game we get the opportunity to represent Dublin is enjoyable. This is just an absolute privilege to see how much these players love their county of Dublin and how much they love Gaelic games.
“I think both teams went hard at it out there, we got a bit of a bounce of the ball and we took our scores a bit more than they did.
“But I think both teams will be happy with that preparation ahead of next week’s games.”
Happy surely, but in a very different sense than being tested by an opposition. An odd day for football.