Mickey Harte and Tyrone rue slow start against Dublin
All-Ireland champions’ single-point victory leaves opponents ‘gutted’ but more aware
Tyrone’s Peter Harte closes on the ball in Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division One game while Dublin’s Kevin McManamon pays close attention. Photograph: Presseye/Russell Pritchard.
Not content with the difficulty of simply hosting the All-Ireland champions in a match they needed to at least draw, Tyrone gifted Dublin two goals in the first minute on Sunday before slowly warming to an all but impossible task.
They fell short but bow out of this league having absorbed a few invaluable truths.
“Ah, I suppose you have to play at 100 per cent or you get punished straight away,” said Peter Harte, Tyrone’s attacking wing back, of what proved to be Tyrone’s closing league game. Five years have passed since Tyrone were All-Ireland champions but the enthusiasm for the team remains undiminished.
Mickey Harte and half the team were still on the pitch in Omagh signing autographs and posing for photographs long after the match had ended. People still expect big things from Tyrone and their game against Dublin showed why. They have always been capable of producing unexpected bursts of excellence.
“Well, in the second half we kept going and trying to get a few more scores on the board and claw them back,” said Harte of the attempt to chip away at the Dublin lead. Eight first-half wides cost them dearly but even so, they managed to catch the visitors only to see their hard work come to nothing after Diarmuid Connolly’s crushing point.
“Yeah, it was gutting in the end to give away that last score. That is the lesson you learn . . . Any day you go out you have to be ready from the word go,” said Harte.
After Connolly’s thumping point, the Tyrone men just about had time to work the ball up the field and create the half chance which fell to Sean Cavanagh. On a calm day, he might have made it: kicking into a blustery wind, it would have required a miracle. Harte shrugged when it was suggested to him that injury time might have been added.
“Look, the referee has a tough job to do . . . we have to get on with it now. We have six or seven weeks to prepare for Down. So that is what we will turn our attention to and not worry about referees. To be honest, injury time is probably something more that you notice when you are watching matches. When you are playing, you are just playing to the whistle all the time . . . we are just disappointed that we didn’t get a draw at least there.”
It is hard to convey just how quiet the home supporters in Healy Park became after Dublin’s stunning start. For the first 10 minutes, it seemed as if the game was over before it really began. Dublin were playing into a stiff breeze and after Ronan McNamee was black carded for dragging down Eoghan O’Gara, the other Tyrone defenders were reluctant to commit as Dublin ran at them. A bleak afternoon appeared to lie in store for Tyrone but unlike their match against Kerry, they found a way back into the game.
“If you give any team a start and you don’t start fast- as we found when we played against Kerry - then those teams punish you,” said Harte. “We were punished early today . . . If we are not ready against Down, then they will punish us as well.”
Tyrone will reappear against Down in the Ulster championship. Whether Mickey Harte persists with an approach which emphasises attack remains to be seen. What can’t happen again in the summer is the sight of marquee forwards sauntering through the defence while Tyrone players stand back in admiration.
“You have to focus on that and if a team does get a run on you, it is about how you stop that momentum,” said Harte.
“Because momentum is a big thing in Gaelic football and we are going to have to learn and try and get better over the next few weeks. We wanted to get to the semi finals . . . Our focus was on staying up at the start and then to push on to the semi-finals. We just didn’t make that target so it is a bit of a disappointment now.”