GAA Football

Mickey Harte deserves long-term Tyrone deal says Ronan McNamee

Tyrone's Ronan McNamee at Loughmacrory GAA Club for the GAA All Ireland Senior Championship Series launch Picture by Hugh Russell.
From Cahair O'Kane in Loughmacrory

TYRONE defender Ronan McNamee has backed Mickey Harte not only to continue as manager into next year, but in the longer-term.

The Aghyaran defender picked up back-to-back Ulster medals on Sunday, a success that will undoubtedly strengthen the hand of the long-serving Red Hand manager as he seeks an extension.

The Tyrone county board find themselves under increasing pressure to hand him a new deal after an impressive march to provincial victory and McNamee says he cannot foresee anyone else being in charge.

“The players wouldn't want him to go anywhere anyway, that's for sure.

“Other people might want other things but my own opinion is I can't see anybody else coming in to take over the reins any time soon. I think he's the man for the job but that's just personally my opinion.”

Asked if he deserves a two- or three-year term rather than just a one-year extension, McNamee said: “Yes. I haven't played under anybody like him. Horse [Gavin Devlin] and Peter Donnelly likewise.

“They're all pulling the one way and they all give as much input as each other. Because he's been there so long, maybe people. I don't know what ideas they have but I can't see anybody else leading Tyrone any time soon barring him.”

In an interview in The Sunday Times, it was revealed that Harte and his players began a pre-match ritual last summer of saying the Rosary together two hours before every Championship match.

McNamee admits that while everyone on the squad might not share that same deep religious belief, they have bought into it together and that it plays a big part in keeping the squad united.

“He has a strong faith and naturally enough if you're asked to do something, you do it.

“Everybody pulls the same way, whether it's saying the rosary or going to Mass. I can imagine any county set-up is a tight group.

“You're seeing other an awful lot and in each other's company an awful lot. It's nearly a club set-up only at county level.

“I can only imagine every county is the exact same, it's a close-knit unit and whatever stays in it, stays in it.

“It can't do you any harm. I can’t imagine it's going to cause anybody any upset. Whether we do it with Tyrone or not, I go to Mass every Sunday anyway at my mum's.

“Everyone comes from different backgrounds and might never have been to Mass since their confirmation. You just wouldn't know like.

“Personally for me I go to Mass every Sunday and before every game. And when we're away whether it's staying in Dublin before a game or staying in Kerry before a game you would go to Mass as a team, whether it's in the hotel or out to a chapel somewhere. It's just what we do and it's always been a part of it as much as the meetings.”

It might have ended up as another magical summer’s afternoon in Clones but Sunday’s first half against Down served as a sobering reminder of the pitfalls too.

Tyrone were laborious for large parts and were lucky not to fall behind just before the break when Darragh O’Hanlon missed a gilt-edged goal chance for Down.

The second half was vastly improved but there was an air of déjà vu about the first period. It looked a lot like the first half of the Mayo defeat last year.

“Nearly, aye, where everything wasn't going over the bar,” admitted McNamee.

“Our shooting let us down, 17 shooting chances and only took seven. You know if you're playing well within each other. These games are cagey and you want to set up properly and not concede too much.

“Half-time came at a good time to regroup and settle down and go at it again. We were very strong in the first 10 minutes after half time.

“Mattie went in the line one time and fisted it over so maybe having that composed head that if people missing chances to get in close and take a handy option rather than the spectacular all the time.

“Personally I felt we were still in control, even if it didn't look like that.”

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