Grateful Harte: ‘We still have another chance’

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Tyrone are still very much involved in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup, and manager Mickey Harte is grateful for the second chance offered by the new Super 8s system.
Defeat to Dublin at Healy Park has come as a minor setback, but it's still all to play for, with a big Ulster derby against neighbours Donegal set to decide who goes through to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
And the Red Hands will travel with confidence due to the quality of their performance against the Dubs.
“The only saving grace is it doesn't knock us out of the championship altogether," said Harte.
“We have another chance, and it's not often you would lose a game at this time of the year, an All-Ireland quarter-final, and still have another chance.
“It's a blessing that way for us. It gives us two weeks to prepare for another quarter-final, and if we win it, we would be in the semi-final.
“So it was a difficult day, and it's a pity, for the effort that the players put in, that they didn't get something more out of the game. But that's life, and hopefully we can learn from it."
The players experienced the intensity of a full-blooded championship tie, which should stand them in good stead in their final quarter-final group game on Sunday week.
“I will tell you in a couple of weeks time. If we go and perform well in Ballybofey and get a result there, then we can say this was a great match for us, in preparation for that," said Harte.
“But, that has to be done yet so until we arrive in Ballybofey and arrive out of it with a result, then we won't be able to say much about that."
Tyrone's record at MacCumhaill Park is less than impressive, particularly in championship football, and a handful of defeats at the venue in recent years remain sore points with players, management and supporters.
“It is a very difficult place to go and they have a huge record up there, haven't been beaten in so many years. But you know what? I am glad we have the chance to go because any other year we would be waiting on the McKenna Cup now and at least we have the chance to play in an All-Ireland quarter-final which essentially is what all these games are.
“It's not often you get to play in three All-Ireland quarter-finals in one season but we are getting it now. If we can come in second of these quarter-finals it would put us in the semi-finals and that would be a really great result if we could do it."
Now, following a hectic schedule which has seen Tyrone play through the Qualifiers and Super 8s without a break, the players are set to get a weekend off to recharge the batteries.
“Yeah, we probably wouldn't know what to do with ourselves next weekend," said Harte.
“It's probably good that it is coming at this time and players have been on the road. Even though some of these games ended up as good results for us, they had to work hard to get those scores. And it was week-in, week-out and we have picked up a few injuries which adds to the whole thing.
“It's good to be where we are and we are still in with a chance. We will try to do our best to avail of that, but obviously Donegal will have other ideas too."
And the Tyrone boss paid tribute to a Dublin side that has not been beaten in championship football in four years, going 26 games without tasting defeat.
“They are still the team to beat, is that 25 games now? That is a fairly high bar to be working off. Until a team have the ability to break that, they are going to go on being the trend-setters."
The Healy Park pitch was reduced in width for the clash with the Dubs, and while it was generally assumed that this was an effort to curtail the All-Irelands' expansive game, Harte revealed that this was not the case.
“This narrowing of the pitch is nothing to do with me at all. That was a request from SKY, that they would like more clearance at the side for all their technology.
“The Omagh cub asked me would I be ok with that, I said 'that's fine, work away.' There are people reading too much into that. A conspiracy theory, but it was nothing to do with that, it was a practical matter."
Full-back Ronan McNamee is a doubt for the Donegal game, after coming off in the first half with an ankle injury.
Harte said the loss of the experienced defender was a big blow in the context of the clash with the Dubs.
“Absolutely, it was a huge factor. He is a major player for us and he has been our full-back for many years now, a very solid citizen at that part of the field and he is very capable of going forward as well, as we saw last week, and even today.
“So a big loss, but I must say Rory Brennan did a good job when he came in. He hadn't much game-time to date, into a big game like that. It took him a wee while to get up to the pace of it and realise that life isn't so easy in there when you have the ball against Dublin. But when he found his feet I thought he did well."
Meanwhile, Dublin manager Jim Gavin was pleased to get out of Omagh with a win as his team moves a step closer to a fourth successive All-Ireland title.
“Two games down in the All Ireland quarter final round robin series and we have four points on the board and that is satisfying," he said.
“It was a great experience, we enjoyed it and the guys were really looking forward to it all week and they weren't let down by the crowd the pitch was in superb condition two teams leaving everything on the pitch and it was a really enjoyable game and gold to come out the right side of it."
Dublin enjoyed purple patches either side of half time which left the home side chasing the game.
“We drove hard at Tyrone and got some great scores and defensively we looked strong as well," Gavin added.
“We knew going into the game they had put up big scores in the last five games and it's a credit to the system Mickey has they are a very potent attacking unit and to list them to what we did today was reflection of some really hard work we did on the pitch."
Gavin added: "Tyrone have that potential and you see the players they brought on to the pitch to finish with really strong side. We finished strong as well and had a strong 15 on the pitch to see it home we controlled it well you have to be satisfied with that."
The game didn't reach the anticipated levels of hostility, with just one yellow shown by referee David Coldrick throughout the entire game.
“I'd say both sets of players will be tired after the game there was great commitment some really good defending as well and the game has changed and teams put a lot more emphasis on the technique of tackling and I thought the officials did well a couple of calls went against both sides in each half but I think it levelled itself out in the end."
Gavin felt his players had stepped up a gear from their Croke Park win over Donegal a week earlier.
“I think it was up a bit and it had to be. Tyrone were coming into this game with a lot of momentum you saw the scores they are putting up. It gave them great confidence coming into it and we knew it was going to be a massive challenge and again our players left everything on the pitch as the Tyrone boys did as well so it was a little better than last week. Will it be good enough going forward? Only time will tell."


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