We lost too many battles, admits Harte

NEXT year will be Mickey Harte’s 10th season in charge in Tyrone but on Saturday he was left wondering whether to empty his bench at half-time.

The Ballygawley man confirmed he will be remaining in the position he has made his own in winning three All-Ireland titles in five years. However, in this last outing in Croke Park he was so flummoxed by his starting players’ poor form that he wished he was able to use more than five substitutes.

“We said at half-time that if we were allowed to use 10 subs we probably would have used five or six of them then.

“There were so many people not winning their personal battles. We’d all five subs used before the end and if we had been able to use eight or nine (subs) we would have.”

Harte dismissed the idea that Tyrone had read too much into Dublin’s indifferent form in the Leinster championship.

“We weren’t judging them on Leinster, we were judging them more on how we played against them last year.

“We appreciated what they did in Leinster wasn’t a true reflection of how good they were. Maybe that disappoints us because we knew what was coming at us.”

Harte defended his decision not to play a sweeper against Dublin from the outset.

“You can do that but then you lose out on the other side of the field. You put yourself under pressure out the field as well and Dublin were very capable of running the ball at us as well. That’s the gamble you take. The way they were kicking points it wouldn’t have mattered. They kicked wonderful scores that two sweepers wouldn’t have stopped.’’

With several of the class of 2003 like Brian Dooher, Ryan McMenamin, Philip Jordan and Owen Mulligan still in the panel, there will inevitably be talk of retirements. But Harte believes no matter how many players decide to end their inter-county careers it doesn’t necessarily mean their departures mark the end of an era.

“There is always change in every squad every year and I think people are thinking too narrowly to say that this is a team that is going to disappear all in one go.

“There are some players that are near the end of their careers and they will make a decision that is right for them.

“There will be no wholesale turnover and as you would look through the team that started, there are not many elder statesmen, so leave everybody to make their own decisions in their own time.

“But it is inevitable when people have been playing at the top level for 10, 11 or 12 years that they may have to consider what they are doing. But this is not the time to do that. I certainly would respect them to make their own minds up on things like that.”

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