GAA Football

Defeat a reality check for pundits says Mickey Harte

18/03/2017: Tyrone manager Mickey Harte watches his team against Donegal during their NFL match at Ballybofey on Saturday night. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

MICKEY Harte doesn’t believe that Saturday night’s defeat for Tyrone is a reality check in terms of their hopes of retaining the Ulster title, but that it might be one for the pundits tipping them.

Having regained the title for the first time in six years last summer, the Red Hands have been tipped to hold on to it.

But the manner of Donegal’s athletic display in Ballybofey at the weekend, allied to the scoring addition of Jack McCarron to the Monaghan forward line, has sparked hopes of an open race for the Anglo Celt Cup.

Asked if it was a reality check, the Tyrone boss replied: “Hopefully for you boys that thought that. We didn’t think that!

“That’s a reality check for you people that write these stories, we would never suggest that.

“We would suggest that Ulster is always as hard as its ever been and anyone that would suggest at this stage that somebody has a right to win it; they would be not very well aware of Ulster football.”

Donegal’s attempts to play a running game were at times undermined over the past 18 months by the rising age profile of their All-Ireland winning team of five years ago.

But while the winter seemed to reflect impending difficulties upon Rory Gallagher’s side in the form of widespread retirements, the Tír Chonaill men have been hugely impressive in their Division One campaign thus far.

With Monaghan also hitting the ground running, and having seemingly found a scoring partner for Conor McManus in the form of Jack McCarron, the race for Ulster looks tighter now than it did eight weeks ago.

But as much as he praised Donegal’s performance at the weekend, Harte wasn’t buying the assessment that Tyrone’s two biggest rivals within the province are potentially better teams now than they were last year.

“I don’t think you can come to conclusions like that on any one game.

“On the night Donegal looked a very good side and if they keep up that kind of form for the rest of the season then your speculation will be very accurate. But I’ll wait and see; it’s too early yet to be deciding.

“We wouldn’t like to think that people would be suggesting that we are world-beaters at this stage of the year, we think are a decent team and we think we will be difficult to beat as the year goes on.

“But none of us have a crystal ball and as the season unfolds we’ll be better armed to make those kind of decisions.”

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