History achieved but Harte hoping for more

Instead of pointing it out himself, which he so easily could have done, Mickey Harte waited for a member of the assembled media to mention the fact that this was the first time Tyrone have reached five All-Ireland semi-finals in one decade.

History achieved but Harte hoping for more

Instead of pointing it out himself, which he so easily could have done, Mickey Harte waited for a member of the assembled media to mention the fact that this was the first time Tyrone have reached five All-Ireland semi-finals in one decade.

And when it did enter the conversation, the Tyrone boss seized upon the piece of history made to have a wee pop off the team’s detractors.

“I’m glad you’ve noticed that because not a whole lot of people have noticed that and we’re very proud of that fact,” began the Tyrone boss, who will oversee a ninth All-Ireland semi-final appearance on his watch next month.

“I think this is a first for Tyrone that we’re in three All-Ireland semi-finals in-a-row. I don’t think ever, in our history, we’ve done that before so for a team that isn’t much thought of in many circles, that’s a good return.”

Not quite as impressive is having won just one of those five semi-finals since 2009.

2018 was the outlier in that respect and Harte believes they’ve improved from where they were this time last year.

“I do think we’ve come on as a team. We’ve added value to the players that are there and some of the players breaking through are making a good impact. Obviously, Cathal McShane is a bonus to us at the minute. He wasn’t stationed where he was last year so yes, there’s a few pluses.

There’s another year of maturity in the team and maybe that’s what told in the end today. We’re a more developed side at this stage of our development than Cork are accordingly.

That this latest meeting of Cork and Tyrone was not even a third cousin of the one-sided contest which played out between the sides in last year’s fourth-round qualifier was of no surprise to Harte. Yes, Cork have made substantial improvements in recent months, but that Tyrone twice found themselves seven adrift in the first-half was tied, in part, to the fact this was their fifth game in as many weekends.

“We knew, for one thing, that it wouldn’t be like last year because we found that with Roscommon, as well. They were freak results against both counties last year. We got away both days. We knew there’d be a much stiffer challenge this time and that it was going to be a battle to the end.

“We are five weeks on the road now and maybe people are a wee bit fatigued. Five weeks on the road is a right slog for amateur players and trying to get themselves recovered in a few days and then prepared in another few is a tough ask. It does take its toll and a lot of travel has been involved in that also.

"A lot of those games were demanding as well. It’s character-building how we came through that game today.

“You never anticipate you are going to concede a goal so early, and secondly, to concede another goal midway through the half.

"That’s never in the script when you go out to play anybody so it is a shock to the system when it happens, but the good thing is these players were able to deal with it and bounce back with something very positive.”

With their place in the last four again assured, Harte welcomes having the choice to either experiment or go full-blooded to top the group when Dublin visit on the opening weekend of next month.

“We’ll see how many people are fit for much more or if some people need a rest. At least now the options are open to us.”

Quirke’s football podcast: Shane Lowry in Croke Park. Team selection farces. Do Tyrone need to be so defensive?

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