Painful memories of Mickey Harte’s first defeat in four All-Ireland finals will fade into the mists of time if his players can use the experience to better themselves and close the gap on the four-times champions.
That’s the fervent hope of the man who has guided the Red Hands to all three of their Sam Maguire Cup triumphs.
His side was unable to match the brilliance of a Dublin team that has gone four full seasons unbeaten in championship football.
“Have you got the capacity to make the next step, who knows?” Harte mused following his side’s six-point defeat at Croke Park.
“Next year will tell the tale, we have to be very competitive in the league, and probably gain more experience of playing at that level, and then see can we qualify again for the last eight, and qualify for semi-finals and finals.
“That’s the challenge, but sure look, every team will be wanting to do that, and it depends how you stay injury-free, how your players develop and grow from this experience, or are there some new players we can find that will add value to what we’re about.
“So all of these things are up in the air right now, but you have to believe, you have to be an optimist, otherwise there would be no point in doing this.”
Harte wasn’t totally convinced that Tyrone have significantly closed the gap on Dublin since last year’s 12-point, semi-final defeat.
“It’s hard to say at this stage. If you get beaten last year, 12 last year and half of that this year, then you have to believe that’s better, that’s progress.”
Tyrone got off to an impressive start, going ahead by 0-5 to 0-1, but the Dubs looked comfortable in clawing them back, with the help of two first-half goals.
“We were five one up, and suddenly it was 2-6 to five points in a very short period of time. And that’s very disappointing, given the way we opened the game,” said Harte.
“And then in the second half, it’s always damage limitation to a degree, that you try to get back at the opposition, but they’re a quality side, and even when we get a few scores, they can nick a few more, so they’re always keeping you at arm’s length.
“But the credit that our boys deserve is that they did not allow this to be a battering that it was last year, and they fought to the bitter end. And even in that comeback, we had chances to close the gap better than we did, and we didn’t do it.
“So you pay the price against a quality side, but I just can’t fault the players for the effort they put in.”
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