Boss Mickey Harte challenges Tyrone to build on 2015

Mickey Harte has claimed Tyrone’s run to the All-Ireland semi-final this summer can only be viewed as a success if they back it up in 2016 by reaching the final or win an Ulster title.
Boss Mickey Harte challenges Tyrone to build on 2015

The Tyrone manager said he’s “not scared” to put pressure on himself and the team by making such a statement and insisted “that is the belief that we have”.

Harte rebuilt his side during a difficult year which featured players quitting the panel, relegation from division one and another Ulster championship defeat by Donegal.

An encouraging run through the All-Ireland qualifiers culminated in a quarter-final victory over Ulster champions Monaghan before another impressive, albeit losing, display against Kerry in the semi-final.

“We won’t be able to determine how good it (2015) was until we see how we do this year,” he said.

“This coming year will be the proof of whether this has been the right building block for success or not.

“You’d have to say that we are very happy with the fact that we regrouped after the defeat to Donegal, went through some stiff enough challenges early on and found our feet and proved that we are a formidable side.

“But if we were to go backwards and not do better than we did in 2015, then you couldn’t say it was a really successful year.

“That’s asking quite a bit, because to better that we’ve got to be in the (All-Ireland) final or win an Ulster title.

“That’s the challenge for sure, so unless and until we do those things, we can’t pass judgment on that.”

While many managers would baulk at the prospect of raising expectation levels about their team, the three-time All-Ireland senior winning manager embraces it. Tyrone have not appeared in an All-Ireland final since winning their last Sam Maguire in 2008 and haven’t won an Ulster title since 2010, yet those are the goals he is setting his team now.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t be scared of it,” said Harte, at the launch of the Dr McKenna Cup in Belfast.

“It’s a reality, it’s a fact. That’s the belief that we have. We have to go to those levels in order to be recognised where we want to be recognised, and I hope there’s enough young men and older men in our squad who concur with that view.”

Speaking publicly for the first time since his reign as Tyrone manager was extended by two years, Harte admitted that he would have preferred if the protracted process over his reappointment had been handled “more swiftly, but we are where we are”.

After several weeks of uncertainty in September, he was eventually ratified to continue in the position he’s held for the last 13 seasons.

During that time, he has just about seen it all and treats praise and criticism in equal measure.

The flak was flying in April when 2008 All-Ireland minor winners Paddy McNeice and Shay McGuigan plus Dwayne Quinn and Emmet McKenna quit the panel in frustration at a lack of game time after the Allianz League draw with Kerry in Omagh.

They followed Kyle Coney, Plunkett Kane and Mark Donnelly out the exit door, after the trio were axed following the McKenna Cup campaign.

Yet Harte managed to engineer a decent season out of the chaos, one which has been regarded positively after five straight championship wins and an All-Ireland semi-final appearance.

“On reflection, people did heap as much praise as they did scorn on the earlier performances of the season,” he said.

“The expectation was at your ankles at the start of the year, particularly after we got relegated. As the season went on, the expectation levels rose dramatically.”

Tyrone will face four provincial opponents in a tough Division Two campaign in the spring and have been drawn away to Derry in the first round of the Ulster championship. Harte is challenging his players to prove this year’s progress is “not a flash in the pan”.

“Lasting memory is the last memory, I suppose, and people had a better feel-good factor about the potential for the team. But you know, three months earlier, that was not there at all.

“So we don’t want to be in a position where in three months hence, it’s way back down there again.

“So the challenge hence is to stay on the upward curve in everything that we’re doing and keep people’s expectation as something that they should have. Not something that’s a flash in the pan.”

Harte confirmed Strabane’s Danny McBride and Eskra’s Peter Hughes have left the panel “on friendly terms” feeling they could not give the commitment required.

He has called in six or seven new faces who will be given an opportunity to prove themselves during next month’s McKenna Cup, when Tyrone will be chasing a fifth title in a row.

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