GAA Football

Ahead of crunch club clash, Davy Harte hits out at negative portrayal of Tyrone football

Errigal Ciaran's Davy Harte
Cahair O'Kane

LCC Tyrone SFC round one: Errigal Ciaran v Carrickmore (tonight, 8.30pm, Healy Park)

DAVY Harte has backed the comments of his Errigal Ciaran clubmate Peter Canavan about the way in which Tyrone football is negatively portrayed on the national stage.

The Red Hand county has found itself in the headlines this week after a couple of incidents in last weekend’s club championship games that caught fire on social media.

A fight that broke out in the intermediate clash between Strabane and Stewartstown went viral on Friday night, before a picture of Sean Cavanagh’s wounds from Moy’s defeat by Edendork did similarly on Sunday. The latter event was deemed by the referee at the time to be unworthy of any sanction for the Edendork player involved.

That didn’t put the brakes on the bandwagon, and Tyrone legend Canavan was forced to defend the county earlier this week, saying: “I do believe that Tyrone are on the receiving end whenever there is negativity attached to Gaelic games. It appears to be pointed up in this direction pretty quickly. I would say there is an agenda going on in that regard.”

His former club and county team-mate Harte will go into the white-hot heat of a local derby against Carrickmore tonight, but says that the general quality of football in the county far outweighs the occasional flashpoint.

“In every county you have certain incidents and things that can be portrayed negatively, but some people do just enjoy portraying Tyrone football in that light.

“On occasion there are incidents that happen which don’t do you any favours, but in general, I’d have to agree with Peter.

“There’s an awful lot of quality in the Tyrone championships as well, and for any spectators, neutrals or outsiders who’d go and watch games, they’re so competitive and you’ve an awful lot of quality on show.

“With social media, things can be highlighted and go national very quickly, but those incidents are in the minority. If you sat and watched a lot of the games, you’d see a lot of the quality football that does go on.”

Errigal come into the championship as many peoples’ favourites to win a first title since 2012. Last year’s league champions, they lost the final to an Omagh side that doesn’t appear as strong on paper now as they did then.

They’ve flown through this year’s league campaign, losing just once in their 13 games, and crucially they have the depth to deal with a programme squeezed by Tyrone’s run to the All-Ireland final.

But if there’s any team that would love to take their scalp, it’s Carrickmore.

Harte was just a teenager when Errigal and Carmen played in what became an infamous league final in 1996.

The Ballygawley men won their first ever senior league title that day, having won championships in ’93 and ’94 – the latter also at the expense of their great rivals – but that league final’s best remembered for the row at the end.

The sides also had some fierce championship battles, and to this day there remains a feisty air when they meet, as there was in Pomeroy for the quarter-final meeting last year when Errigal won by three points.

The 36-year-old Technology and Engineering teacher in St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh, says the competitive nature of the club championship in Tyrone is such that a favourites’ tag doesn’t really exist.

“It’s a derby game and they’re unpredictable, they’re generally tight and cagey and they’ll come down to the last 10 minutes. If some team gets one or two scores to go ahead, it gives you a massive advantage.

“My experience of Errigal-Carmen games, they take on a life of their own. I remember as a teenager in the ‘90s watching the games, there were some massive battles between the two, and you’d have been involved in some of them in the noughties. Everything’s so keenly contested. Last year’s game was no different.

“I know from within the panel, you wouldn’t acknowledge that favourites’ tag if it is attached to the team, and that’s down to the competitiveness of the Tyrone championship.

“I do accept that because we won the league last year and we were in the [county] final, and performed quite well in the league so far this year, people are going to look in and say ‘you’d have Errigal up there’.

“But for any team involved in club championship in Tyrone, you know a lot of the games are 50-50. People might say a team has a great chance but if you ask them how much money they’re betting on that, their opinion might not be just as forceful or convincing.

“Pomeroy got to a semi-final last year, people were tipping them to go well this year and they were knocked out in a cracking encounter with Galbally.

“You had Clonoe and Ardboe as well, nobody could call it convincingly and it went down to the wire. I’d expect our game with Carrickmore to be the same.”

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