GAA Football

Mickey Harte hits back at Tyrone off the pace suggestions

Sean O'Shea of Kerry kicks a point from a sideline late in the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 1 match between Kerry and Tyrone at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, Kerry on Sunday January 27 2019. Picture by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile.
Francis Mooney

It’s all about timing and calculations as the top teams seek to peak at the business end of the Championship, but Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has dismissed suggestions that his team is off the pace in these early days of competitive action in 2019.

Kerry looked sharper and keener in their NFL opening day win over the Red Hands at Killarney last Sunday.

The four points loss puts pressure on last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists as they prepare to face Mayo at Healy Park on Sunday, needing a win to avoid getting sucked into a relegation struggle, even at this early stage.

“I think our players have done quite a bit of work in the last few weeks, because nowadays modern gaelic football athletes do work hard themselves anyway,” said Harte.

“I suppose collectively we haven’t as much done maybe as we would have done at other times, but I don’t think we can make that as a factor for how we were (against Kerry).”

Despite the reversal at Fitzgerald Stadium, Harte gleaned many positives from his team’s performance at a venue that has traditionally been a difficult place for Red Hand teams to go.

“I have commended the boys for the effort they put in. I think on a number of times the rub of the green just didn’t go with us.

“I did feel that a few little breaks of the ball here and there actually ended up in Kerry hands and they were critical to the outcome of the game.

“And I think that we probably deserved to be beaten by less than four points. I think we put in a bigger effort than that and deserved to be closer than that.”

Tyrone went into their Division One campaign with five competitive games under their belt in the Dr McKenna Cup, while new Kerry manager Peter Keane had opted out of Munster’s McGrath Cup in favour of concentrating on getting his players conditioned.

But it was the home side that was much quicker in getting to the pace of the contest in front of a big crowd that was given an early season reminder of the growing importance of the National Football League.

“Maybe in the past you could have played league football, even away back when I started, it wasn’t so intense as it is now, but I think people now know that this is a very strong breeding ground for the Championship, and you’re going to get very much more competitive games than you used to do,” Harte added.

“And I think that’s what we found. It was a really intense game, and I think that’s good. It was an enjoyable game, I think you could sense the crowd enjoyed the turnovers, and I think we offered plenty of turnovers as well.

“The count for Kerry was good, but we had a great count of turnovers in the first half as well.”

Tyrone will also be brushing up on their interpretation of the new playing rules ahead of this weekend’s clash with Mayo.

On a couple of occasions last Sunday, they were penalised for playing a sideline ball backwards.

“Maybe they weren’t focused totally on it, the backward kick from a sideline ball, and it’s a bit unfortunate.

“Maybe it’s asking more of the players out the field to present in a better way for the ball. So we can’t fault the people.

“I think maybe in the first case Ronan McNamee just forgot about it, because it wasn’t high on the agenda. And I don’t know what Petey (Harte) was at with the one he took, I think he was trying to slice it across the field without putting it back.

“I suppose people have got to get used to these things, for they’re going to be there and they’re going to have to learn to play with it. I don’t think that was a significant factor in the outcome of the game.

“The significant factor was how Kerry played in the first half, and how they really were very difficult to break down. They were well structured and pretty intense in the tackle.

“And that made it very difficult for us to get scores. Having said that, I think we should have got more than the one point that we did, and I think we could have kept them to less than five.”

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