The Ulster champions cruised past an abject Mayo to secure Division 1 football for 2019 and did so with a formidable performance.
“Those who questioned it [Tyrone’s system] maybe didn’t know what they were talking about unfortunately and maybe some of those people who speak loudest really think least and maybe they will go and review their groupthink mentality and be a wee bit more independent in their thinking,” said Harte.
Harte was criticising from a position of strength after a fine performance saw them full value for their 12 point victory in Castlebar.
It’s a result which leaves Mayo in danger of going down to Division 2. They travel to Ballybofey on Sunday for what Mayo manager Stephen Rochford described as a ‘league final’.
A win or draw for Mayo will see them safe and Donegal down but should the hosts win, they would relegate Mayo by virtue of head-to-head results.
They may have to travel north without the services of captain Cillian O’Connor (hamstring) and former Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan (shoulder), who were both taken off in the first half.
They were joined on the line in an action-packed first half by teammates Colm Boyle and Andy Moran. Boyle was sent off for two yellow cards while Moran was shown a black card after running into Maurice Deegan whilst disputing a decision.
Rochford wasn’t, however, going there for excuses.
“[We were] extremely disappointing from the get go. [We] never got to the pitch of the game. Tyrone did all the running, we seemed to be stuck to the ground and that’s the way it played out,” said Rochford.
“Not a lot went well and everything then becomes an issue as to why we didn’t play well. Our ball handling was terrible. I think we had 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. A stark contrast to the slickness in which we were playing last week and we’ll look at what preparation we did this week but we only did a session on Wednesday and a light session on Friday so we certainly weren’t tired but we never got out of first gear.”
While O’Connor went off injured after 12 minutes, Mayo were taking on water by the time they lost their next player, Boyle, after 31 minutes. By then, Tyrone were 0-8 to 0-1 in front.
Mattie Donnelly led the way early on with three quick points. Tyrone were eating Mayo up in the tackle time and again and broke at speed on the counter. Mayo did not help themselves with a series of unforced turnovers either.
But Tyrone had their own first-half setbacks. Colm Cavanagh was shown a black card on 27 minutes for pulling a Mayo player down, while defender Hugh Pat McGeary was stretchered off after 25 minutes after a late tackle from Colm Boyle.
That earned the Mayo man his first yellow card and Mickey Harte is hopeful a suspected broken leg is merely ‘bad bruising’.
Leading by seven and with a man extra, Tyrone looked home and hosed. But then Padraig McNulty was shown a straight red for a high and heavy hit which forced Lee Keegan off.
Two Conor Loftus frees before half-time left five in it at the break and when he kicked the opening score of the second half, you wondered were Mayo on the way back.
But within two minutes of Loftus’s point, Tyrone struck the game’s decisive score. Peter Harte played a lovely little pass into Lee Brennan whose dummy was bought all ends up by Ger Cafferkey and Brennan calmly steered the ball past David Clarke.
Mayo took off Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor and Jason Doherty well before the end with next week in mind. And Tyrone outscored them by 1-6 to 0-3 from there and while the fare was pedestrian, those who stuck it out were treated to two great scores late on.
Mickey Harte compared Lee Brennan’s amazing point in the left corner to a Stevie O’Neill effort while their last score was their second goal, sub Conal McCann superbly finding the top corner of the net to pour salt into Mayo’s wound.
L Brennan (1-3, 2 frees); M Donnelly (0-4); C McAliskey (0-3 frees); C McCann (1-0); F Burns, N Sludden, C Meyler, D McClure (0-1 each)
C Loftus (0-5, 4 frees); T Parsons, F Boland, N Douglas (0-1 each).
M O’Neill; C McCarron, P Hampsey, C Meyler; HP McGeary, F Burns, P Harte; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; M Donnelly, N Sludden, C McShane; L Brennan, C McAliskey, M Bradley.
M McKernan for McGeary (inj.) 21mins, D McClure for Cavanagh (black card) 29mins, K McGeary for Sludden 39mins, D Mulgrew for Bradley 52mins, C McCann for McAliskey 55mins, R Brennan for McCarron 67mins.
D Clarke; E O’Donoghue, G Cafferkey, C Crowe; C Boyle, L Keegan, S Coen; A O’Shea, T Parsons; D O’Connor, J Doherty, A Gallagher; K McLoughlin, C O’Connor, A Moran.
C Loftus for C O’Connor (inj.) 12 mins, P Durcan for Keegan (inj.) 34mins, S O’Shea for Moran (black card) 40mins, F Boland for Doherty 55mins, N Douglas for D O’Connor 55mins, C O’Shea for A O’Shea 60mins.
Maurice Deegan (Laois).