Mickey Harte goes on the offensive to defend Tyrone’s style of play

Manager says he has never instructed a player to deliberately foul an opponent

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte: “I would defy anybody to stand up and say that I told them to foul.” Photograph: Inpho.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte: “I would defy anybody to stand up and say that I told them to foul.” Photograph: Inpho.


Mickey Harte has strongly defended Tyrone’s style of football ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo – fervently rejecting any accusations of either cynical play or systematic fouling.

“I have seen lots of cynical play,” said Harte, “where someone has gone in with a late shoulder on someone reaching down to pick up a ball and hit them about the head or neck.

“I’ve seen people take a frontal challenge and hit someone in the front with a shoulder challenge. I’ve seen things that, for me, are much more cynical than pulling someone down, however unsavoury that may appear.”

With that Harte referred back to the incident in Tyrone’s All-Ireland quarter-final where midfielder Seán Cavanagh deliberately pulled down Monaghan’s Conor McManus. “Those incidents that Seán were involved with will never injure anybody. They may stop somebody being in a better position to do something with the ball but there are lots of things going on that are much more cynical and not getting as much attention as the pull down.”

The Tyrone manager also defended his team’s record on discipline, claiming he has never once instructed a player to deliberately foul his opponent.

“Absolutely not,” said Harte. “If you ask any of the players – and I open this to anybody who has ever played under me, and I’ve been managing Tyrone teams for a long, long time – I would defy anyone to say I have ever said ‘foul a player.’

‘Limiting your potential’
“I’ve actually said quite the opposite. I have said ‘do all in your power to avoid fouling and avoid attracting cards’. Because when you attract a card, you’re limiting your potential to have as good a game as possible. Ask any player from any era that I have been working with, I would defy anybody to stand up and say that I told them to foul.”

Last week, Tyrone took the unprecedented step of releasing statistics showing that they have committed fewer fouls in league and championship in 2013 than have been visited upon them. They pointed out that while they have fouled the opposition 256 times in 2013, they themselves have been on the receiving end of 280 fouls.

Harte explained that one of the main reasons behind releasing those statistics was his frustration at seeing Tyrone somehow being singled out for foul play. “It disappoints me that it can be paraded as the currency of the day,” he said. “And when you roll something out often enough, some people will believe it anyway. And that’s a pity. I really think people should be more discerning and delve into these things more, and I would be happy to take anything that is levied at me.”

Not that Harte believes any criticism of his team takes the gloss off their progress to an All-Ireland semi-final. “I don’t think so because within the group, we believe in what we’re doing and we have been on a very tough journey and we are very pleased that we have managed to get through all these obstacles, varied as they were. So we’re happy to have achieved that, getting them to the last four is a major achievement for us at this stage, because we are in the process of rebuilding.”