Down boss Eamonn Burns deserves the most credit says Tyrone's Mickey Harte
TYRONE boss Mickey Harte has said that Eamonn Burns deserves immense credit for battling through the criticism to turn Down's fortunes around.
The Mourne county manager had to absorb much negativity after nine straight losses in league and championship in his debut season in 2016, but there has been a change of tune this term after he secured Down's Division Two status and took them to a first Ulster final in five years.
"While the whole team deserves a lot of credit, he maybe does more than anybody because the buck stops with him," said Harte.
"He had to listen to a lot and have things said that were absolutely unfair and didn't have the substance to back up what those people were saying.
"They were cheap shots in many ways, so he has been very resilient to be able to stand up to that and still move on the way he has done.
"It's a credit to Eamonn. We will be opponents, of course, on Sunday, but we will shake hands before it and we will shake hands after it."
Harte goes into Sunday's encounter in search of his sixth Ulster title as manager of the Red Hands.
The first of those came against Down in his inaugural year in charge in 2003 and Harte knows that there will not be many outside the county hoping for another Tyrone victory.
"Going back to the '60s, Down were the team that everybody looked to," he said.
"They made the breakthrough in bringing the Sam Maguire across the border for the first time.
"I know many people in my own county and in my own family supported Down.
"They have that historical something that they give to the people.
"People like to see Down do well, they like to see them in finals and winning things. There is something about them, they have that aura around them.
"When they get a run going they soon tap into that and I think they have done that this year.
"From a standing start they have gained a lot of confidence from two games (Armagh and Monaghan) and have left the last 12 months behind them.
"It was no mean feat to go to Cork to get a point to survive and maybe that was a sign of things to come.
"There is something about Down, but I'd like to think there's something about Tyrone too."
Harte said that the theme of their preparations ahead of the final has been simple ? to try and match the hot-streak that they hit against Donegal in the semi-final.
The two tamss were level on five points apiece after the first quarter, but in a devastating spell, Tyrone hit seven points without reply to kill off the contest before running out eventual 1-21 to 1-12 winners.
"It wasn't just that the purple patch was all good play, it was that the play was all converted into good scores," Harte said of that spell.
"That doesn't often happen, you can hit a purple patch like that and still only be two up.
"For that one we ended seven points up and against Donegal that was huge.
"That was the gift that we got, and it made it a stress free second half, particularly when Tiernan McCann got his goal.
"I think the players know that each game has to be taken on merit and if you don't perform well against the opposition in front of you, then you won't have those kind of days.
"I dare say we won't have a day like that for a long time, but we have to get as close to that performance as possible against Down.
"I believe if we do that then we will take a bit of beating."