GAA Football

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte wants a rare League win over Kerry

Tyrone have struggled to get the better of Kerry in the league in recent years. Pic Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

MICKEY Harte has mostly had the measure of Kerry in the glamour world of championship football over the past decade and a half, but league encounters have generally not gone well.

The Red Hands have lost a handful of crucial NFL encounters with the Munster men, home and away.

This weekend's clash will cause no serious damage to either, with relegation issues safely settled ahead of the final round of games.

But Harte is irked by his team's record against the Kingdom, and he's keen to alter the trend.

"It's a home game for us in Omagh. We haven't beaten Kerry in a long time so we have to be on our best form again," he said.

"It will be nice to finish off with a win and to go into the Championship on the back of three league wins. That is our ambition but no doubt Kerry will come with good intent as well.

"They are also preparing for their Championship and I'm sure they will have a number of players back who haven't featured much yet this year. I'm expecting tough resistance."

Sunday's Healy Park tie is Tyrone's last competitive outing before the Ulster Championship opener against Monaghan, and Eamonn Fitzmaurice will also place this game in a pre-championship context as he prepares to challenge for another Munster title.

Harte wants to build on the momentum the Red Hands have built up in recent encouraging displays against Donegal and Mayo.

He was particularly pleased with last weekend's Castlebar drubbing of the 2017 All-Ireland runners-up.

"It was a good performance. It was a game we needed to win to stay in Division One so there was a lot hanging on this game. It wasn't a dead rubber.

"To win a very important game is satisfying against a team who have one of the top two in the country over this last number of years."

Attacker Lee Brennan's form is one of the reasons Tyrone have turned the corner following a shaky start to the league campaign.

The Trillick sharpshooter wasn't making the team in the early stages of the campaign, but now he's the top scorer in Division One, and weighed in with 1-3 at McHale Park, including a brilliant goal.

"That goal is what he is all about. He does the things you don't expect other players to do," said Harte.

"Not just the goal, but the point he got with his right foot was sublime as well. Someone was saying that is really Stevie O'Neill at work there.

"He always managed points like that. So he's learning as he goes. He has that x-factor about him and if the score is on he goes for it and he is working hard as well when he doesn't have the ball."

Tyrone routed Mayo by 12 points to secure their Division One status, dominating the game from start to finish, and maintaining an impressive balance despite the dismissal of both midfielders in the first half – Colm Cavanagh to a black card and Padraig McNulty on a straight red.

"That is the work of the collective unit. The players were determined at half-time not to give up on the work that had got us in a good position to be five points up.

"What was going to keep us in that position was to work as hard again and try and keep that gap. Even if Mayo reduced it as long as we were able to pick off one or two we were always going to keep them chasing the game.

"It's not often we are in that position, it's usually us doing the chasing this season in games in the league, but we were on the front foot from the off and stayed there until the end .

"It's very much a team game. The players work hard to try and regain possession and we try to move forward as a group at pace to try and get scores. I think that worked out well for us."

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