Summer rain, novenas for the game of football and Mickey Harte standing on the sideline.
Some things are ingrained deep into our collective GAA psyche and Harte’s place at the core of that identity will continue on through to 2016 after the Tyrone manager confirmed his intention to remain at the helm for a 14th season.
“Without a doubt,” he said when asked if his hunger for the gig was as high as ever despite this hard-to-take All-Ireland semi-final defeat. “I really enjoy this particular role and feel privileged to be in that position. There’s great young players in Tyrone at the minute, a great mix of young, of middle aged and not so young, and they’re a good bunch to have together. They’re very committed athletes and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”
Pleasure was not a word he used at any other point in the course of a near 12-minute press conference though his smile and polite manner belied the disappointment that was hardly eased by the consolation of a team that contested as his did.
Displeasure was the emotion most readily visible when he was asked about the black card awarded to Ronan McNamee for his tackle on Colm Cooper and the yellow variety referee Maurice Deegan believed was warranted when Shane Enright dragged Peter Harte down. A baffling set of circumstances, someone suggested.
“Baffling is the word,” Harte agreed. “Inconsistency is the word again. I just don’t see the difference in those. If one of those was a black, the other one was a black or if they were both yellows, so be it. But I don’t see how you could have one, one colour and the other, the other colour. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.”
Yet Tyrone were no innocent bystanders in their own downfall. Spurned goal chances and a handful of far from easy but still gettable frees that fell wide hamstrung a comeback that gathered momentum after a third quarter when their race looked to be almost run.
Harte hadn’t been thrilled with their first-half performance, though they tore into Kerry and vacated the park just a point behind. Too much loose use of the ball, he explained, but more than once his thought process wandered back to those efforts on goal that cost them so dearly.
“What do you say? You are playing the champions and as champions they are very hard to beat. They are a quality side and we are not playing any minnow here. This is the real hard end of the season and you are meeting quality sides. Not many more quality teams than Kerry around. We could have got more out of the game. If we had been more clinical after we closed the gap having been four behind: if we had been more clinical with our shooting at that stage then we might have asked different questions of Kerry, but that is all history now.” That it is, but not so Harte. Not yet.
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