Mickey Harte defends Tyrone’s tackling and rejects accusations of cynical play

“It happened during the game. Both sides were guilty of it from time to time. So what?”

For the most part, Mickey Harte was in pretty jovial mood afterwards. Or at least he was until it was put to him that the closing stages of the game had turned fairly cynical.

“Sure, there was rugby tackles earlier in the game so why would you call one more cynical than the other? Both teams committed fouls that were blatant from time to time so I don’t think we can point to the ones at the end and say they were any different to the ones at the start.

“I mean, we had players pulled down in a similar fashion at other times in the game when the momentum was with us so I mean we can’t just be looking at this last little bit of the game and saying that’s cynical, that’s not. It happened during the game. Both sides were guilty of it from time to time. So what?”

That aside, he was delighted to have made good on their post-Donegal promise of making the quarter-finals at least.

“It wasn’t an easy route. We had to take every step at a time and every game threw up its own unique challenge and today was no different. We were probably in a strong enough position and let it slip. The ball off the post there at the end there could have fallen into Meath hands, could have been a goal.

“The last shot for a free could have gone in. Lady luck was on our side when it really mattered and I suppose Seán Cavanagh made a huge difference to the whole affair. He was the outstanding player on the field. Probably as good a game as I’ve ever seen him play and I’ve seen him play lots of them.”

For Mick O’Dowd, his first season in charge ends with plenty of miles banked. By his reckoning, the most important thing 2013 brought was a reconnection between the Meath team and its people. “That was an important step so we’re happy with that,” he said.

“When we look back on tonight, we’ll regret the first half particularly. We weren’t happy with ourselves going in at half-time. We weren’t happy with the performance we put in. There was a couple of chances in the second half that we should have taken . . . But in fairness, Tyrone kicked 17 scores and we kicked 11. That’s the difference.”

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