Harte: We like winning Ulster titles, but there is another title just down the road

THERE were no joyous group hugs afterwards. No-one wearing red sank to their knees or raised their heads towards the skies in wonder.

Mickey Harte merely stood on the field, arms folded and with just the merest hint of a smile.

Tyrone have paid lip service to Ulster all year. They have talked about 1996 and how they wanted to emulate that generation by claiming their own provincial back-to-back but the achievement was never going to satisfy their cravings.

Last year, they claimed an Ulster title that was all but forgotten once Cork had evicted them from the race for the All-Ireland title at the second last fence.

Reparations need to be made this time. “It took a long time to get to this, (from 1995-96),” said Harte. “When you get into that position you want to make the most of it. We did that today and we can build on that.

“We like winning Ulster titles but there is another title just down the road and there are a lot of hard miles to climb.

“It is knock-out stuff now and we would like to make a few more strides than we did last year.”

Tyrone still have some of this generation’s best footballers in their midst – men like Brian Dooher and Seán Cavanagh – but this is a side built on the strength of the collective rather than the individual.

Their form has been such the last two days that they allowed Down just two points in the last 52 minutes of their semi-final and Monaghan just three in the final 51. It is utterly dominant football.

“I wouldn’t like to describe it as that,” Harte countered. “Monaghan maybe found in the last 15 minutes that the game was going away from them and it was hard for them to try and salvage the day. You might be four or five points up but that is nothing in the modern game because one break up the field and the opposition can score a goal, get the next kick-out and maybe get a point. It is a fine line between a comfortable win and a dangerous win. We had a comfortable win today.”

There were no ifs from Seamus McEnaney as he sifted through the ashes. No buts, no excuses. Monaghan had come to the table on the back of a goal and 39 points scored against Armagh and Fermanagh and yet they managed just seven points in 70-plus minutes of football when it mattered most.

“We were with Tyrone after 20 minutes of the game,” said McEnaney. “We felt we were in a good position controlling their dangerous forwards but the last 40 minutes were disappointing. It was probably Monaghan’s worst 40 minutes in six years.

“We had come here full of confidence playing really well. We were playing a team that is probably the best team to leave Ulster since I started to watch football. We were laboured in our movement of the ball, laboured in our ability to get ball to our inside forward line and we were turned over far too often.”

The Monaghan manager felt his side had been “bullied” by Tyrone. Not in the conventional sense but in that last attacking third of the pitch where Monaghan attackers had been habitually stripped of possession.

“Unacceptable, totally unacceptable,” said ‘Banty’. “We would know ourselves it was a totally unacceptable performance from a group of players that has put in so much and given so much. We won’t finish on that note.

“We won’t be walking away from the 2010 championship in that fashion. It’s hard to live with, hard to accept that. We haven’t won the Ulster Cup that we came here to win and we’ll just have to come out fighting next weekend.

“Tyrone were outstanding in the last 40 minutes.”

McEnaney’s fighting talk is admirable but history will show that the qualifiers haven’t been kind to sides coming off the back of provincial final losses, especially those out again a week later. Making matters worse is the fact that Vincent Corey will, in all likelihood, sit out next weekend’s assignment as he did yesterday’s while JP Mone is another serious doubt after picking up a knee injury in the second-half.

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