Tyrone's greater scoring spread taking them closer to the top - Mickey Harte
TYRONE boss Mickey Harte reckons his current squad "is on the way to reaching the top level" but that it's too early to make comparisons with their team of the Noughties.
The Red Hands are aiming to reach their first All-Ireland Final since winning their third 'Sam Maguire' nine years ago, but the brilliant back-to-back champions Dublin stand in their way in Sunday's semi-final.
Harte acknowledges his team's attacking approach has altered since the wastefulness of their disappointing quarter-final exit against Mayo last year.
However, he also argued that forward play has changed in the modern game anyway.
Tyrone have scored 6-77 in their four Championship outings so far this season and Harte admitted the memory of scoring just 12 points from 31 shots against Mayo has played its part in that improved return:
"Well, yeah, it makes you try to do better, of course. We were trying very hard last year.
"We had a very good season up until we met Mayo and we did create many more chances than we converted. So that is something the players have thought long and hard about.
"I've always said, in all the years I've been involved in management of teams, I'd rather be creating chances, even if you are not taking as many as you'd like, than not creating chances at all.
"When you're creating chances, there's always a chance that you'll get enough to do. If you're not creating chances, then you're certainly not going to be in with a chance to win anything."
Harte talked about the efforts made to increase their conversion rate: "We've worked very much on people preparing to take on shots, but you can't just wait to the day of the game to do that. We need this in training every night.
"We need players who may not normally be shooters finding themselves in positions to take scores.
"I think that has contributed to the spread of scores we have had, that we now have players who don't believe 'I get a nosebleed here' if they find themselves in a position to take a shot. [Instead, it's] 'I am prepared and capable of taking this on'.
"Now some will obviously have a higher return for their shots than others, but that shouldn't stop other people from taking those shots – unless there's somebody in a better place.
"So, yes, there's been a whole lot of thought around the idea of finishing better. But I can't say that transformation will just take place in one year either."
Seventeen different players have got on the scoreboards for Tyrone over their four Championship games this summer – the exact same number as Dublin.
Scoring more leads to more scores, Harte has noticed, with Tyrone averaging more than 1-16 from play per game:
"We've hit some purple patches this year and when you do that, not so much those scores in themselves – although they're very valuable on the scoreboard – they give a confidence to the entire team, saying 'If we take this on, we can get more than this'. It's not the scores in themselves, it's the confidence they give to people.
"The whole idea that lots of people score on every day we've played this year, to me that's a good thing.
The different personnel available to him is a factor in the wider range of scoring too, Harte pointed out, when asked if this side is getting closer to their team of the Noughties:
"It is too early to say that. It's easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses through a very successful period of our time.
"We still had the so-called 'marquee forwards' at that time, which has been the big spake over the last while.
"Those days, you still were dependent on somebody getting 0-6, 0-7, 0-8, or 1-4, 1-5, 1-6. Stephen O'Neill and Peter Canavan, and then a few people chipping in with that, like Owen Mulligan, Ger Cavlan, Brian Dooher. But you always had a big-scoring forward, which probably isn't a phenomenon of the modern game.
"I don't think it is right to compare this team to a previous era. I think they have to be allowed to be judged in their own right."
In that regard, Harte contends that Tyrone have already achieved things of note: "Ultimately, some people will always judge a team or a squad in terms of the silverware they win – I think that's a bit narrow.
"I think you have to judge them by where they were a few years ago, where they are now, and is that success? I would say 'Yes, that is success.' They have a little bit of silverware on the way to doing that too, which is no bad thing.
"It's about the potential to be the best that you really look for in a squad of players. I believe that potential is there.
"Whether it is realised or not right now, that's a big question. But I think this Tyrone squad is on the way to reaching the top level.
"How long it takes to have that confirmed by the outcome of certain events, you'll be the first people to tell us that".