Tyrone face a whole new ball game to topple the Kingdom

MICKEY HARTE accepts Tyrone will face a “different” Kerry in the Bank of Ireland football final in three weeks to the one they easily overcame in the 2003 semi-final.

In his view, they may not have necessarily "adapted" to the style perfected by both Tyrone and Armagh over the last few years. What they have done under new manager Jack O'Connor is to "add variety" to their play! Harte accepts that after consecutive failures to Armagh (in the 2002 final) and Tyrone, some commentators suggested that Kerry "needed" to refine their play if they were to get back to winning ways. However, he stressed that he himself never stated this.

"I said that the game had moved on, that everyone should take note of that. If people didn't want to move that way that was their prerogative, but they shouldn't cast aspersions on those who did. That's what I said at the time.''

He agreed that Kerry had changed their style. "I suppose they have. Maybe they have added some variety to it and maybe there is a variety to their game which wasn't there in the past. But Kerry are the masters at adapting to anything that is valuable and useful and they have continued to do that. And Kerry will always be around.

"The rest of us are fighting for one or two All-Irelands. They are fighting for 33 and 34. That's the difference between Kerry and the rest of the country and we have to accept that.''

Selector Fr Gerard McAleer, who has worked with Harte from minor upwards, agrees.

"Whatever they have learned, their style has evolved too. It irritates me greatly when I hear people talking about some kind of a golden age, as if there was only one way of playing football. I saw football evolve very much in the '70s with Dublin and Kerry evolving a beautiful style of football. It wasn't always about catch and kick.

"Kerry hold no fear for us at all. We beat them reasonably well the last time we met them. Now they are All-Ireland champions and we respect them very highly. And I know Kerry respect us. I know Jack O'Connor very well, we're good friends for a long time. I respect the style they have developed.

"I think they have learned something from us, I think it's going to make for some final.

"It will be a different game from Sunday. There won't be same tension. I think too much was made of the fact that ourselves and Armagh are neighbours and so on. We felt that the Anglo Celt Cup was in some way snatched from us in the Ulster final. It wasn't a mission of revenge. We wanted to try and prove that we were the better team and the way to prove that was to get to the All-Ireland final!''

Harte admitted that after Stephen McDonald goaled for Armagh, it seemed their "time was up again." But he never lost faith in his players. "The feeling the boys had from the previous two games spurred them on and when it mattered most they were still there,'' he added.

"Peter's point was a brilliant score, no better man to take it. But we had to get ourselves into that position. It was good to be able to call on him that's what his experience and his guile is all about. We had to scavenge for the tough ball, but we had people at both ends just giving you that last inch.''

Captain Brian Dooher insists Tyrone must improve to win, saying Kerry have to be taken very seriously after they "blew Cork out of the water."

"Cork were one of my teams for the year for the championship and it shows just how good Kerry were when they basically steam-rolled them. We know what will be facing us in three weeks time.

"We have a fighting chance, but we'd want to improve. We hope we can play better. We believe we can.''

In the meantime, Harte says the supporters have to come down to earth quickly. "The celebrations on Sunday scared me a little bit because we won no cup. They were a bit premature, but I suppose that was how people felt because of losing the Ulster final.

"We are in the final...that's all that has happened. We didn't win anything. We should keep our feet on the ground and realise we are only in the final, the same as Kerry.

"And they coasted into it with a lot less celebrations. Maybe we'd do well to think about that!''

Tyrone are the second team in the history of the championship to play ten games. Meath were the first, in 1991. After four games with Dublin in the first round they drew with Wicklow, then played Offaly and Laois before beating Roscommon in the semi-final and losing the final to Down.

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