Peter Harte relishing time spent with Tyrone seniors
IT doesn’t seem that long ago Peter Harte was cutting a dash in Tyrone's all-conquering minor team. Now 26 and a seasoned campaigner with Tyrone seniors, it’s as if somebody kept their finger on the fast-forward button.
Harte's career has flown by.
Speaking at Tyrone's press night at Garvaghey last Thursday, the Errigal Ciaran man also wonders where the time goes.
“The change from when I came into the panel to now is massive,” he says.
“At the start, the gym work was kind of something you were told to do or some people just did it. It was by no means a wholesale thing, but now every team – no matter what division or where you play – the level of training has gone up.
“And your lifestyle away from the pitch has changed more. You have to be focussed on your football and if you’re not you’re probably on the road to no-where, so it’s what you have to do now.
“Your football career goes very quickly and Ulster Championships go even quicker because they’re only a three or four-game series, and Tyrone haven’t been successful over the last few years.
“And if you look around the changing room there aren’t that many boys who have Ulster medals, so that’s the target.”
Harte enjoyed a hugely successful underage career, winning a Hogan Cup with Omagh CBS in 2007 and added an Ulster and All-Ireland double with the Tyrone minors the following year.
He made his League debut under Mickey Harte – his uncle – against Mayo in February 2010 and his Championship bow came the following May against Antrim as a substitute.
He was a used substitute in Tyrone's Ulster final win over Monaghan that year, the last time the Red Hands got their hands on the Anglo-Celt Cup.
No-one doubted the youngster’s talent but it was never going to be easy breaking into a team full of All-Ireland winners.
“We all knew looking on at the county minors that he was a quality player,” said manager Harte. “So was Mattie Donnelly, so was Ronan McNabb, and they’ve come through.
“What you expect from people like that is that they’re going to take time to mature. It’s very hard to go from minor straight into senior and be as effective as you were because there’s a physical demand that’s not there at the minor.
“And the era that you come into the team, it mightn’t have been as effective as it had been earlier. You have to bide your time to find your own feet, and I think these men have, these are the boys we have been waiting on to actually give us the added value.
“You can see that now, there is leadership in them, there’s a team-work in them, a versatility in them; they can go to various parts of the field. It’s good to have people like that; they are central to making things happen.”
Even though Harte must feel part of the furniture over the last six seasons, he admits that he still wouldn’t be the most vocal in the Tyrone changing room.
“I’m not sure about being vocal,” he says.
“A lot of people can be vocal but maybe it’s not worth anything. You’d far rather be seen to be doing things on the field than saying things in the changing room. That’s what you’re trying to do anyway. When we came into it we had All-Ireland winners all around us and it was probably very hard to speak out when you’ve men in front of you that did it all before."
Harte has evolved into the team’s metronome, key to Tyrone’s razor-sharp counter-attack.
If he plays well, Tyrone invariably plays well.
Derry and Tyrone have played six Championship games on Oak Leaf soil with Tyrone winning only one of them (in 1984).
The two sides have played just one Championship game at Celtic Park – Sunday’s venue – in 1992 which Derry won.
Regarded as a tighter, more claustrophobic arena than most, Harte is unfazed by the dimensions of Celtic Park and the closeness of the home crowd.
“We’ve never played Championship football at Celtic Park so it’s a new experience for us. If you go in worrying about the size of the field or how close the crowd is, you forget all about the basics of what you’re supposed to do.”