Harte praises Red Hand endeavour

Thursday, 16 February 2017

TYRONE manager Mickey Harte paid tribute to the endeavour of his players as they emerged from a clash with the great Dubs with a valuable league point.

The Red Hands looked on course to inflict a first defeat on the All-Ireland champions in 30 games, but having been reduced to 14 men in the second half, they were unable to withstand the home side's late rally.

“I can't take anything away from the players who worked their socks off in difficult conditions. Of course, Dublin aren't in the form that they'll be in later in the year and there's plenty of reasons why they weren't on song as normal," said Harte.

“They were still good enough to be very difficult to defeat and that's why they're so difficult to beat. A draw is a good result now looking back, although it's a point lost when you look at how we were five points up. It would have been cruel on us not to get at least a point because our performance deserve that and nobody would have begrudged us the win.

“You always know that you're under threat against Dublin no matter how many points you're up against them because they're a quality side and capable of turning things their way in an instant," he said."

Harte felt the straight red card dismissal of attacker Mark Bradley was a huge factor and turning point in the game.

“The sending off of Mark Bradley didn't help us because it's hard enough to play with them 15 never mind 14 players. We were a bit wayward in some of our finishing and if we'd been a bit more clinical in that regard then we could have been in a better position.

“It was a very difficult last 10 or 15 minutes for us and full credit to the players for hanging in there.

“You can't afford to be down to 14 against the best team in the country and a man down is a huge challenge against them. We could ill-afford that and I feel that Mark Bradley got the wrong end of the stick, I don't think he would have been starting anything and I don't think what he did was a sending off offence."

Harte took many positive from a thrilling tie played in extremely difficult conditions in front of a big Croke Park crowd.

“Niall Sludden's score-taking was brilliant against a very good side. Declan McClure had a great game last Sunday and is a real bonus for us now. The way he's playing at the minute he's putting his hand up to be considered for every game.

“I'm always happier when we're creating chances and the idea is to take the lion's share of them and we're not doing that at the moment. Some of that is down to the defensive pressure, but there were a number of scores that would normally have been expected to be put away.

“Dublin haven't got the game behind them like other counties including ourselves, but you know that they'll be back stronger and will take some beating. They have gained confidence from being so successful and the number of players who are fighting for a place.

“I don't make much of the black card because it is so inconsistently administered that it's so frustrating. To think that Tiernan McCann got one tonight and I saw other events which were in my eyes worse than what he did. It's frustrating for me and the players."

Dublin manager Jim Gavin said he was proud of his players for going right to the final whistle and battling for a draw.

“We just want to play to the very final whistle, whenever the referee decides to call a close to proceedings," he said.

“One of the strengths of this current group of Dublin players is that mental resolve, that mental strength and that capacity never to give up.

“It did look at times that the game was going away from us. We were probably five points down coming into the last quarter, and they went very, very defensive and tried to close the game out.

“Our guys really went at it, we made a lot of rotations there in the last quarter, and the boys who came in really picked the pace up again.

“We're very proud of them, conditions were difficult and we were playing against a class Tyrone side, and to eke out a point out of that is very satisfying."

Gavin labelled Tyrone a defensive team who play a style of football that is alien to Dublin.

“Tyrone are a very defensive team, and they showed that in the last quarter, when they were five points up, and they started to sit back.

“Our boys don't play that way and they will always attack as best they can. Playing a very tight defensive team who have many months of training under their belt, their fitness showed there, and they have won the McKenna Cup, so they're a class side.

“But for our part, we're just happy to come away, and get more game time into some of the newer players, and they understand our systems and our processes."

Meanwhile, former Tyrone great Stephen O'Neill believes a successful leage campaign is essential for the team as they bid to build towards a big championship challenge.

“I think they need to make a good statement in the league, and I think we have the players now to do that," he said.

“Whenever you have a good strong league campaign, it helps the mood of the whole camp.

“And I know from previous years, when we were playing, any time you were doing well in the league, the whole lead-up then to the championship was a lot easier.

“People were in good places mentally and physically, and I think a good league showing this year would bode well for the championship."

Tyrone have been in the shake-up for the All-Ireland over the past couple of seasons, despite being engaged in a rebuilding process, but O'Neill believes transition is over, the team has now matured and is ready to seriously challenge once again.

“We have the players just at the right age. A lot of that 2008 minor team are there now, and you have Mattie (Donnelly) and Petey (Harte), they're great leaders.


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