Harte wants feet on ground as Tyrone head to Croke Park
All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Group 2, phase three: Donegal 1-13 Tyrone 2-17
A SEVEN-POINT win lifted Tyrone in seventh heaven – but with an All-Ireland semi-final in seven days Mickey Harte allowed his players seven hours of celebrations, at most.
Having complained about the lack of celebrations after a second consecutive Ulster Final triumph eight years ago, the Red Hands boss was quick to point that even this historic first win by a visiting team in Ballybofey for eight years is “just a stepping stone to the semi-final of the All-Ireland.”
Jubilant Tyrone fans thronged onto the pitch afterwards but Harte insisted: “The big thing is we have to get our feet back on the ground because players have no control over what happened at the end of the match.
“The supporters just flowed on to that field and were so euphoric and we wouldn't want to get caught up in that euphoria because there are no cups handed out today, no titles won, no medals…
“An All-Ireland, semi-final is a dangerous place to be, beaten semi-finalists are forgotten very quickly. So this is a huge match next week. There are only seven days so we can enjoy this for seven hours if we are lucky. After that, it's down to basics and prepare for the next game.”
That’s another meeting with Ulster opposition, Monaghan, who came to Tyrone’s own backyard and won in their Championship opener this year.
The Red Hands seemed set for a third Championship defeat when Donegal captain Michael Murphy’s opportunist goal from an intercepted kick-out put them four points up just before half-time.
“Yeah, we felt we were in control for more of that half than the scoreline suggested at half-time – it was a sucker blow all right to us and it was difficult,” acknowledged Harte.
“But there was still a resilience in the changing room. We knew that this was not ‘throw in the towel’ time, this didn’t need to be like it was here a few times before, we could change the script. The boys were very, very resilient in their attempts to do that.”
Yet with an hour played Tyrone were still behind, but they ended the game superbly, outscoring Donegal by 2-4 to 0-2 from then on, with goals from substitutes Harry Loughran and Declan McClure.
Harte was understandably delighted with the spirit shown by his players: “It was evident that we weren’t going to lie down, it was going to be a battle to the end – and we felt if it was a battle to the end we’ve been through enough good battles this year to maybe be in a better position to deal with it.
“We’ve had our hurts, we’ve had our defeats, we’ve had our near misses, and we just knew that today we really had to try to make history for ourselves – and I think we’ve done that.”
Now to write another chapter – or two…