Harte: Tyrone will rise again

TRUE, Tyrone have fallen by the wayside in this year’s All-Ireland football championship, victims of Cork’s insatiable appetite for the ultimate honour, but we have not seen the last of them.

Tyrone will be back. So too will Mickey Harte.

The man has been masterminding successful All-Ireland campaigns at minor, U21 and senior levels for well over a decade but he has no intention of walking away from the top job though he has been in the hot seat for seven years.

“I’m not spoofing or bluffing but there was a time when I felt under more pressure than I do now,” he revealed yesterday.

“Maybe that’s part of the process of living and learning about what life has to offer. If it was sheer pressure for me then I wouldn’t be there.

“It is a privilege to be working with the best footballers in Tyrone at this time in our history when they are among the best in the country. That’s some privilege.

“If I didn’t enjoy that and get a feelgood factor from being around people of that quality then I should not be there. I still get that feeling, I still feel it is a privilege and I still feel there is more to do with this Tyrone team. As long as I believe that, I am going to stick around another wee while.”

So, the chief is staying but it remains to be seen how many, if any, of his Indians decide to call time on their involvement remains to be seen.

Age and injuries have pushed Brian Dooher front and centre as the main candidate but others such as Brian McGuigan and Conor Gormley – men with a decade’s service in the tank – have been mentioned in dispatches too.

Whatever individuals decide, Harte isn’t about to trade in his established stars for younger and unproven models just yet. There will be no “knee-jerk reaction” even if the next generation is eager for a taste of the action.

“It’s too easy to say to somebody that because you have been around 10 years you shouldn’t really want this anymore. That’s an easy option when you lose something. Those players have a vast experience and should be given the opportunity to be there.

“If someone comes along and decides they can play better, that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace that as well. I wouldn’t be one for a knee-jerk reaction. I would work with somebody as long as they are prepared to give the commitment and have the quality.”

Kyle Coney was the star of Tyrone’s All-Ireland-winning minor side last season but Harte reckons half a dozen of that outfit have what it takes to muscle their way into the senior panel in the near future. The show will go on.

For now, Sunday’s wound remains raw but Harte and Tyrone are better versed than most in how to accept life’s disappointments, and last weekend’s pales into comparison with some of their past experiences.

Yesterday saw his return to Dublin, this time in support of a campaign by the Mater Hospital and Powerade aimed at raising money for the development of the Heart Screening Clinic which is combating Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS).

Five years ago former Tyrone captain, Cormac McAnallen, died of the syndrome so Harte had little difficulty in putting the defeat to Cork, disappointing though it was, in context.

“Even the very context we are speaking in today brings that home again. Just at home at the weekend a young girl in a neighbouring parish of mine, Cathy Cox, was killed in a road accident. I presented her with her player of the year award for her local club Beragh just last year. So that’s the real ache when you wake up in the morning when things like that happen.

“Sport, yes, it can hurt you. It can upset you and you can be annoyed about it, but I really mean it: you have to keep it in context, keep it in perspective. Maybe that helps me move on, to look ahead. There are more sporting challenges out there and we’re all alive to do that, thank God.”

He has been talking Cork up for years now and was impressed by their hunger to claim ‘dirty ball’ four days ago but he knows a thing or two about Kerry too and isn’t ready to overlook their claims to the throne either.

Like Tyrone last year, Jack O’Connor’s side have had to negotiate their way this far via the back door all the while enduring brickbats and listening to predictions of their demise both inside their county and outside.

“There are definitely similarities there. People might say the paths were a little different, that they had two or three games on a similar level, which they struggled to a certain extent, but always got there.

“Then they opened up against Dublin. There are lots of similarities and Sunday’s game will maybe tell the tale whether Kerry’s progression is heading in the same direction as ours did last year. There’s every chance it will.

“Quality is always quality and Kerry have it. If they can build on what they did against Dublin, they are serious people. There is everything to play for and it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility if Kerry wouldn’t do what we did last year.”

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