"You'd wonder how anyone can stand by any criticism of him" - Mattie Donnelly backs Harte's reappointment
TYRONE ace Mattie Donnelly says that the Red Hand players never countenanced the idea of Mickey Harte not returning as manager next season.
Harte was given a three-year extension to his term following a county committee meeting on Tuesday night, which will keep him in the job until at least 2020.
Having taken over ahead of the 2003 season, the new deal will take him up to 18 years in charge of the county’s senior team, having served their under-21s and minors prior to that.
Despite having won back-to-back Ulster titles in the last two years, Tyrone county board opted to allow his existing term to run into its final year this season, the first time that had happened during his tenure.
The Tyrone players had met on Monday night and the clubs then almost unanimously backed his return on Tuesday night. They also opted to put him back in for three years, as opposed to two, which was also proposed at the meeting.
Donnelly admits he is surprised by the negative talk that has followed the team over the past couple of seasons despite their provincial successes.
“If there was any rational thinking at play at all, there was never any doubt he was going to have it extended. He had the players’ support and we didn’t entertain any other thoughts. It was no surprise to us anyway.
“The negativity is surprising. I don’t hear or see much of it but you get wind back that there’s a lot of negativity about him, and about the team in general.
“Whatever it is around the team, there does seem to be a bit of negativity.
“You just have to look at his record and the success he’s brought to Tyrone, and you’d wonder how anyone can stand by any criticism of him.”
Hopes were high after a record-breaking summer in Ulster and a subsequent hammering of Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final that Tyrone would push the reigning All-Ireland champions hard in their semi-final last month.
But an early Con O’Callaghan goal allowed Jim Gavin’s side to play the game completely on their terms and Donnelly concedes they will have to review their strategy on chasing a game.
“The one thing if you are going to play that way is that you can’t be conceding an early goal like we did. You talk about game management and when they went a goal up at an early stage, they did that very well.
“They played it perfectly. They did seem to be well-prepared for the way we were set up in the way they were moving the ball and sucking us out and tiring us.
“Before you look much further, you’d have to say the way we conceded that goal was a massive blow. But we probably had to adapt then and that’s something we’ll probably look at, is adapting better to those situations.
“We probably had to be better at chasing the game and getting back into it, we probably sat back too much then. In fairness to Dublin, we were just on the end of an unbelievable performance by the Dubs.
“It might have looked like it was a flat performance from Tyrone but they were so well drilled that any time you went near a Dub to get a tackle on, they had the ball shipped to another man.
“They were sucking energy out of us, and then they were very clinical too, and their scoring stats proved that.”
FORMER Allstar Justin McMahon has followed his brother Joe and Sean Cavanagh into inter-county retirement, bringing the curtain down on a 10-year career with Tyrone.
McMahon will perhaps best be remembered for his performance in the 2008 All-Ireland final, where he combined with sibling Joe to blot out the threat of Kieran Donaghy.
The Omagh had an injury-disrupted career after making his senior debut against Fermanagh in the National League in 2007, having captained Tyrone under-21s to an Ulster title the previous year.
Across 110 appearances for the county, he went on to win five Ulster titles and that 2008 All-Ireland, as well as representing Ireland in the International Rules series.