GAA Football

Increase in long kickouts not because of the mark, says Mickey Harte

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Picture by Philip Walsh

MICKEY Harte says that the apparent return of long kickouts in Gaelic football is less to do with the introduction of the mark and more about the game simply evolving naturally.

The Tyrone manager was one of the most vocal opponents of the mark’s introduction after Congress voted last year to introduce it without trial into the game.

But even the most ardent objector has been forced to review their opinion in the first seven months of the new rule, with the number of long kickouts increasing and teams more likely to pressure on the opposition restarts.

Harte, though, feels that it is simply a by-product of the direction the game was already headed and says that in spite of how his team benefited against Donegal, it is not something they have discussed on the training ground.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that you can trace that back to the mark,” the Tyrone boss said of the increase in long kickouts.

I would say that you would trace it back to what is happening on the field.

“The mark is there, so it be as it is, but I’m telling you for sure that I have never once mentioned the mark to our players.

“So that’s what I think about it and if it turns out to be valuable to us then we will take it but I’m not an advocate of it just because we happened to get five marks last week by Colm Cavanagh.

“The mark is taken into account now because there are longer kicks but that is not the reason why the kicks are going longer. It is probably more of a reaction to teams pushing up and pressing the kick outs than the mark itself.”

The evolution of his own team since the watershed of a Qualifier defeat at home by Armagh three years ago reached something of a plateau in the brilliant Ulster semi-final win over Donegal just over three weeks ago.

Much has been said about the change in style they displayed in Clones that day, with the kick pass a much more notable feature of their game.

While agreeing that it was probably Tyrone’s best all-round performance since they last won an All-Ireland title nine years ago, Harte feels the assertion that their style has changed dramatically is over the top.

“I don’t think that we specifically set out and said ‘we must change’.

“If you remember back in that game against Mayo, we had 5 or 6 chances late on to win that game and if we had won that game by a point nobody would have said that there was an awful lot wrong with the way that we were playing football.

“So to me we have to understand that it is not about the result entirely.

“For example I was looking at the point scoring that people give for players in a match and in a certain game not long past I added up the scores for one team and it came to 89 and I added up the scores for the other team and it game to 112, and the difference at the end of the game was one point in reality, there was another point came when the game was virtually over.

“So how could that be that those two teams played as close a contest as that and somebody decided that there was a 23 point difference in their performance?

”So the outcome shouldn’t determine or dictate everything. People said that because we lost that game by a point last year we didn’t do things right, I don’t believe in that and I don’t agree with that.”

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