A fourth All-Ireland title would be Mickey Harte's greatest achievement: Philip Jordan
TYRONE’S three-times All-Ireland winner Philip Jordan says winning this year’s Sam Maguire would be Mickey Harte’s greatest achievement in management.
Harte has been involved with Tyrone teams for a staggering 27 years and has lost just three of 20 major finals he’s been involved in with teams representing the Red Hands.
The Errigal Ciaran clubman guided the county's senior footballers to their first-ever All-Ireland title in 2003 and bagged two more before the end of the ‘Noughties’.
However, to beat defending champions Dublin in the September 2 decider, Jordan insists, would top the lot.
“I think to win this year and to beat a team like Dublin that may well be the best team that ever played the game would just be an unbelievable achievement,” said the former Tyrone defender.
Tyrone came up woefully short in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against the Dubs and Harte was castigated for his side’s overly defensive approach.
But this season subtle tweaks have been made and Tyrone’s new offensive strategy was in evidence in their narrow win over Monaghan in the semi-finals.
Notably, Collie Cavanagh – the team’s recognised sweeper – was pressing higher up the field on Monaghan’s kick-outs and more men were being left up field.
“Dublin nullified that double sweeper system quite easily last year,” said Jordan.
“Even in the [Super 8s] game in Omagh, Collie was nullified by their style of play. Against Monaghan in the semi-final they tried to get someone back in front of the full-back line but there was pressure higher up the pitch.”
The Moy man added: “Ultimately, do you be brave enough and bold enough to try and get a gameplan that can beat Dublin or do you go for a gameplan that maybe gets you to an All-Ireland final?
“Mickey has been shaping a team in a way that can beat Dublin, whereas the style of play in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final just isn’t going to work but could probably beat all the other teams in the country on any given day.”
While the Tyrone sides Jordan played on in the previous decade were littered with great players, the current crop doesn’t have the same amount of marquee quality.
But Jordan feels that it is more difficult in the modern game for an individual player to influence games.
“To say Tyrone don’t have great players, I think the game is so different now. I don’t know if we’re ever going to watch games again where you will say: ‘There are five or six great players’.
“The game is so different. It’s much more of a team game than it’s ever been in terms of systems.
“You see the likes of Peter Harte, Niall Sludden and Mattie Donnelly – three of Tyrone’s really good players – the opposition can take you out of the game and it’s very hard for a player to influence a game on a consistent basis.”
Jordan, who was a key player in Tyrone’s three All-Ireland triumphs, is not surprised Harte is still at the forefront of the county trying to win a fourth title.
“When there was that negativity around it would have been very easy for most managers to walk away and say: ‘Look, I’ve won three All-Irelands, I’ll walk away.’
“Mickey wants to stick at it because he believes he can win another All-Ireland, and hopefully in this final he’ll be proven right again.
“I always felt Mickey would stay as long as he was allowed to stay and as long as he was fit to keep going. He’s been involved in Tyrone football for a long, long time.
“Football is his life. He was always one of those people who wouldn’t want to walk away. He wants to be successful all the time and he loves Tyrone football.
“I suppose he’s trying to prove a point that he could build a new team and win the All-Ireland again. Mickey is one those people if he was there in five years it wouldn’t surprise me. He wants to keep giving to Tyrone football.”