Mickey Harte setting his sights on another crack at Sam
Ulster Senior Football Championship final: Down 0-15 Tyrone 2-17
TIMES have changed in Tyrone. A year ago there was a huge outpouring of joy and, to a certain extent, relief after just edging out Donegal in the dying minutes to land a first Anglo-Celt Cup in six years.
Yesterday, the job was done 15 minutes into the second half as Tyrone streaked ahead of a tiring Down.
Fans flooded onto St Tiernach’s Park afterwards but, as Tiernan McCann remarked in the aftermath, it was more of a “surreal” feeling compared to the pure elation experienced last year.
Winning never gets old though, and Mickey Harte is only too happy to bringing the famous trophy back to Tyrone for a sixth time under his watch.
Yet the Red Hands boss insists that while yesterday’s performance was good enough to win an Ulster final by eight points, it won’t be good enough to take them all the way to Sam Maguire in September.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’m thinking Anglo-Celt – isn’t that good? And it means we’re into a new competition, eight left when it’s all sorted out. We’re one of them. It’s a quarter-final.
“We fall too often in a quarter-final for our own good. We need to be very focused in what we’re about and prepare for this quarter-final.
“It’s an awful place to go out after you have just lost a quarter-final. It’s not a place you want to be so we will be very focused for the next couple of weeks until we play that game.
“The team has been maturing over the last couple of years and they are getting better.
“But we have to get better to do better than we have been doing. If the improvement is enough to bring us to where we want to go, time will tell.
“But we’re pointing in the right direction. It’s important to win games, win trophies and it’s important to consolidate our position as the best team in Ulster.”
The Red Hands came in for plenty of criticism last year after losing out to eventual All-Ireland finalists Mayo by a point at the quarter-final stage, and Harte admitted the pain of that defeat was still there.
He added: “You got to Croke Park as Ulster champions and you don’t win – that’s unfinished business. That’s a step at a time job.
“We want to be in a semi-final, that’s our next challenge. That’s all we can aim for but that’s the one aim we have at this time. If we get there we’ll be very happy to be in a semi-final.
“That’s the challenge for us now. Win another game in the last eight and be in the last four.”
Down put it up to Tyrone in the first half yesterday before being blitzed by the Red Hands after the break, and Harte said he wasn’t surprised that the Mournemen had made life so difficult early on.
“We did believe that Down would be very difficult to break down,” said the three-time
“They proved that in the first half. They were with us every step of the way and it was an intense game. We felt we needed a good start in the second half to give us that leeway or cushion. We got it.
“Sometimes we got a really good run of play and we converted to scores. That’s the big thing.”