GAA Football

Mickey Harte warns that Tyrone will be ready for physical warfare

Mickey Harte and the Tyrone players looking dejected after their 2014 defeat by Armagh at Healy Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
From Cahair O'Kane in Garvaghey

TYRONE manager Mickey Harte has warned Armagh that they will be ready for any repeat of the physical warfare the Orchard brought to Healy Park three years ago.

The Red Hands headed into their round two qualifier as favourites but were bullied off the pitch from literally the first whistle.

The main flashpoint occurred around Mattie Donnelly and Aidan Forker, both of whom were booked just as the game started.

It proved costly for Tyrone as Donnelly was given a second yellow five minutes before half-time and Armagh pressed home their numerical advantage in a three-point win.

“I am not quite sure that there was quite 15 men at it but there was an element of aggression, of off the ball aggression and one our players got a yellow card and he was left on a knife edge for the rest of the game - so much so that a clumsy tackle caused him to have to leave the field,” said Harte.

“We were down a man and it led to what was not a great day for us and perhaps we did not anticipate that coming.

“I suppose it is good to know that is a possibility that can happen when you go out to play anybody and it taught us, not just about the direct opponents we are playing now, but that we have to be ready for every game.

“And indeed we experienced it in another encounter in Croke Park at the start of the second half,” said Harte, appearing to refer to last year’s quarter-final with Mayo, where Sean Cavanagh got drawn into a tussle with Lee Keegan and picked up a yellow card that also led to his game ending early.

“You would like to think that with so many eyes watching this now that they would be able to decide who the instigators are and who are not. That did not seem to be the case in our previous experiences.”

Armagh dominated the physical exchanges throughout, with former Tyrone defender PJ Quinn admitting the Red Hands would have to “ask themselves serious questions on the physicality end of it” after the loss.

Tyrone have gone on to reach an All-Ireland semi-final and win two Ulster titles since then, and have been transformed physically under the guidance of coach Peter Donnelly.

While the personnel on both sides has changed considerably since then – none of Tyrone’s starting forward line that day are likely to start Saturday’s game – Harte expects Armagh to bring plenty of the same traits to this weekend’s encounter.

“Yes, personnel has changed and different people are in different places but you still have got to know the kind of opposition that you are coming up against and how they play the game, what’s their strengths.

“It does not matter really who the individuals that are in there, the commonality here is the manager is the same and his philosophy as to how the game should be played, his determination and his way of leading players will be the same.

“He has learnt more over those years as well, he is not the same man he was in 2014.

“He has learned along the way, he now has a lot of experience as a manager and we are beginning to see that experience come to fruition and he has a lot of really solid people around him who were soldiers in the field with him and now they are soldiers on the sideline and that is to be respected.”

Tyrone have a clean bill of health for the final, while Harte revealed the Connor McAliskey’s recuperation from a cruciate knee ligament injury has gone so well that he could not be ruled out of playing some part if they progress deeper into the summer.

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