Mickey Harte reveals respect for Kieran McGeeney ahead of qualifier showdown in Newbridge
. . . but Tyrone manager believes his side are good enough to progress to quarter-finals
Mickey Harte: “I had total respect for him (Kieran McGeeney) as a player and equally so as a manager.” Photograph: Inpho
“No point saying anybody is good enough now. Come the summer it’s a different ball game with a lot more intensity. I think Dublin showed the type of work rate you need at intercounty level, especially in Croke Park. If we can get them up to that . . .”
That was Kieran McGeeney speaking last March after Tyrone journeyed down to Newbridge and won pulling up. Kildare spurned 19 scoring chances (12 wides, seven falling short) without target man Tomás O’Connor. Tyrone went on to beat them again in the league semi-final but both counties dived into championship with hope. Dublin and Donegal provided heavy doses of reality.
And now, almost four months later, we are heading back to Newbridge for the same meeting, but in a warmer championship setting. Nothing that went before will matter but Saturday evening’s end result. All the ingredients are there for a classic – 6,200 will cram into St Conleth’s Park. The 700-plus Tyrone season ticket holders will be accommodated. It’s live on RTÉ. Kildare have an exemplary qualifier record. Tyrone are used to winning on the road. There is also the McGeeney and Mickey Harte rivalry dating back to its zenith in 2005.
“I have total respect for Kieran McGeeney,” said Harte yesterday. “I think he was a great player. I had total respect for him as a player and equally so as a manager. He’s one of those people with whom what you see is what you get and it is very hard to beat that. I have never found him anything other than courteous and gentleman-like on the field with me.
Harte added: “They are unfortunate that with Dublin around in Leinster in the last 10 years they were always going to be playing second fiddle. Had they been in another province I’m sure they would have been provincial champions a few times.”
After defeat to Donegal, Harte said he believed Tyrone would still make the quarter-finals. “If I’m not confident that we can do that, then how are the players going to be confident that they can do that? But you shouldn’t confuse confidence with arrogance. We’ll be very determined to do everything we can, and I believe we’re good enough to be in the last eight. We have to prove that on the field.”