Peter Harte makes it a 'Messi' day for Armagh at Croke Park

Peter Harte gets ahead of Armagh's Ben Crealey during his man-of-the-match performance Picture by Seamus Loughran
From Brendan Crossan at Croke Park

IT’S official: Peter Harte is the closest thing Gaelic football has to Lionel Messi.

There is no finer sight in the game than Tyrone’s flame-haired attacker running at the opposition.

And it’s Tyrone’s front-footed approach that has seen them rack up an incredible 6-77 in four Championship outings in 2017 that Harte hopes will edge them towards a fourth All-Ireland title.

After sweeping aside Armagh by 18 points – 3-17 to 0-8 – on Saturday afternoon, the Errigal Ciaran man felt that they have gone some way to correcting the mistakes of last summer that saw them fall to Mayo at the All-Ireland quarter-final stages.

“We were criticised last year and rightly so,” he said.

“We didn’t attack enough last year, we played a bit conservatively when we got to Croke Park.

[But] You can’t win in Croke Park playing that type of football.

“You have to go and score, you have to go and hurt the team at the other end. That’s what we’re trying to do and that’s what we’re working towards. This is just another step. And we know the next day [against Dublin] the standard is going to go up again.”

Tyrone have won each of their Championship games at a canter and face an intriguing semi-final shoot-out with Dublin on Sunday August 27, who won with similar ease against Monaghan on Saturday evening.

Asked if Tyrone could lift Sam Maguire this year, Harte replied: “All Mickey Harte’s teams believe they can win an All-Ireland and I don’t think we’re any different.”

Harte believes Tyrone are a better, more rounded side than 12 months ago and that the wealth of talent they have in reserve is a huge weapon as they enter the final stages of this year’s All-Ireland series.

“I’d say the last couple of years we’ve been improving, and hopefully we can keep improving because if you’re not improving you’re going the other way,” said Saturday’s man of the match.

David Mulgrew of Ardboe came off the Tyrone bench to bag two brilliant second half goals to break Armagh hearts, while the likes of talented trio Lee and Rory Brennan and Conor Meyler didn’t get any game-time on Saturday, which illustrates the strength of the current squad.

“I think our bench has got more important,” added Harte.

“Teams that can bring on legs are important. You seen ‘DD’ [David Mulgrew] when he came on, Ronie [O’Neill] came on, Darren [McCurry] who all have serious legs and we when have that pace coming in off the bench, I know myself when other teams do it, it’s a lonely place out there in a big field, so benches are very, very important.”

Despite the ease with which Tyrone have won their games this summer, Harte added: “People from the outside looking in don’t know you have to work hard and your skill level has to be very high.

“Sometimes games just go like that and you end up winning with a wee bit to spare. But there’s an awful lot of hard work that goes into that.”

Up to now, the Red Hands – and the Messi-like Petey Harte – have made winning Championship games look completely effortless.

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