Mickey Harte ready to give Tyrone fans what they’ve been waiting for
Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke frustrated at referee Anthony Nolan’s decisions
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte celebrates his team’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Monaghan at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Mickey Harte is still here, still surviving, still bringing teams to All-Ireland finals. Billy Morgan went 14 years between 1993 and 2007, Mick O’Dwyer went 12 between 1986 and 1998 (nuggets courtesy of, naturally, Seán Moran). But neither of them was in charge of the same team the whole time, neither of them was front of house continually throughout good years and bad.
Harte will walk out onto Croke Park on September 2nd a full 10 years after his last appearance on the biggest day of them all. A decade in which he has broken down a great old team, built a couple of handy enough new ones and survived plenty of dark talk within Tyrone about his hold on the job. He would be entitled to a little defiance if he felt the urge afterwards. But this wasn’t the day for it.
“It is just like this day that we have been waiting on for a long time and working towards,” he said afterwards. “And we had to be very patient over the last number of years because we were knocking on the door and getting to decent places but we never could get to the final. And we can’t be too pleased by all of that. Getting to the final is one thing but there is something to be won in the final. And we have to really knuckle down now and do our very best and make a game of this final. The public need it and Tyrone people need it, for us to make a real fight of this final.
“We haven’t great memories of our semi-final last year here against Dublin, so we need to be so much better than that and if we are, it should be a better game than that one was. And if you are in a good game, who knows what will happen?”
This was, of course, Tyrone’s fifth semi-final since 2009 and their first victory. Harte has been on the other side of this fence enough times to know what it means, not just to a team or a squad but to a county.
It’s not just about Gaelic games or about playing football. It is about the wellbeing of the people in your county
“If you have been in four semi-finals and go home with nothing to do for the next month only watch other teams go for it, there is an awful sense of anti-climax. We know the people of Tyrone. They love their football and love to get energised by it. And we felt for the last number of years that we kind of let them down somehow.
“They just wanted to express themselves in terms of being here on All-Ireland final day. Maybe we got a wee bit spoilt with three in five years in the Noughties. But still there is a longing in the people of Tyrone to be here on All-Ireland final day. And we always felt we were playing for them.
“That’s what we do it for. We don’t do it for ourselves. We do it for those good people who travel miles and miles to support it; people who have family issues where football brings them some consolation. So it’s not just about Gaelic games or about playing football. It is about the wellbeing of the people in your county.”
For Malachy O’Rourke the imperative to give Tyrone their due had to do battle with his annoyance at the performance of referee Anthony Nolan. He was adamant that Monaghan had to work harder for frees all afternoon but above all else, he couldn’t fathom how there wasn’t more than three minutes added on at the end of the game.
“Just frustrated the way the game ended,” he said. “All year, every game we’ve been involved in there have been seven, eight nine minutes of injury time. I can’t understand today how with so many substitutes brought on – there are supposed to be 20 or 30 seconds per substitution and there were plenty of injuries all through the game – how he came up with three minutes of injury-time. So that is really frustrating.
“We were on the front foot. We had scored two points in injury-time. To be cut off like that. And even the last ball that went in that Kieran [Hughes] went for, the referee signalled for a free in and then didn’t give it. But just bitterly disappointed to have put so much in. I don’t mean to be making excuses and no comment on Tyrone at all but just very disappointing for ourselves.”