Peter Harte admits Tyrone must sharpen up to take on the big boys - The Irish News
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Peter Harte admits Tyrone must sharpen up to take on the big boys

Tyrone's Peter Harte struggled to make his presence felt in Sunday's defeat to Mayo at Healy Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

TYRONE’S defeat to Mayo reopened the debate about whether the Red Hands have the firepower to launch an All-Ireland challenge – and playmaker Peter Harte admits their low points return is a concern.

Mickey Harte’s men missed a series of late chances last August when they bowed out at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage to Mayo, and there were echoes of that game at Healy Park on Sunday.

Tyrone kicked 15 wides and dropped three short before losing out to Kevin McLoughlin’s late winner, a result that leaves them with only an outside chance of reaching the League final ahead of this weekend’s trip to Kerry.

Having registered just six points in defeat to Donegal the previous week and 12 on Sunday, Peter Harte acknowledged such returns are unlikely to cut it by the time Championship comes around.

He said: “Going into the summer, you’ll probably need 16 points to win most Championship games, or in around that.

“To only be shooting 12, it means that your defence has to work awfully hard to keep the other team below that.

“That’s one thing we need to be working on. We are doing it, but it’s not showing yet.

“Last week when we didn’t perform, we got well beaten. Today our performance level was probably a bit better, but just not enough to get us the win and the points that we needed.”

Perhaps more worrying is the fact the Red Hands have managed just one goal during the National League.

Mayo midfielder Tom Parsons popped up to fire home on Sunday, yet Aidan McCrory’s major against Dublin remains Tyrone’s only three-pointer from six games played.

Parsons’s first half strike helped swing the game back in the westerner’s favourite, and Harte knows Tyrone need a greater cutting edge.

“One goal is probably not a big enough return in the League and goals win matches, they really do,” he said.

“I know it’s a cliché, but especially in this division, you saw today, the goal just gave them the impetus going in at half-time.

“It gives you something to hold on to and to build on, and it ended up being the difference in the two sides.”

On the Mayo goal coming against the run of play, the Errigal Ciaran man added: “It was probably our best spell in the game in terms of scoring but Mayo are one of the best sides in the country, and they have been vying for that spot this last five years.

“And when they got us on the counter-attack then a couple of times, they make you pay, as it showed with the goal and with the point towards the end.”

Tyrone’s cause wasn’t helped by the harsh black card shown to Niall Sludden just a quarter of an hour into the Division One clash.

Just as he had been in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, the Dromore dynamo looked to be a key attacking outlet and, just a minute before leaving the field, Sludden slalomed through the Mayo rearguard and fired over.

Harte wasn’t about to use Sludden’s early departure as an excuse though, highlighting the fact Tyrone had plenty of opportunities to change the face of the game.

“You can say those things don’t go your way, but when you miss 15 shots, the ones you need to make count, and we didn’t today,” he said.

“It was probably the difference in the teams, I’m not too sure what the stats were, but when you’re missing 15, it’s very hard to win any game, and it proved today.

“We probably didn’t make enough of the wind in the first half. I think we went in a point down, after conceding a goal, which was disappointing, and probably gave them the impetus in the second half to see it out and get their scores that wee bit easier.”

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