Peter Harte: Tyrone must reverse poor Ulster Championship form

Red Hands haven’t progressed beyond quarter-finals since winning title in 2021

Supporters on the pitch for pictures and autographs wity players including Peter Harte, after watching Tyrone beat Mayo during the National League Division 1 match played at Healy Park in Omagh on Saturday 24th February 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Peter Harte is hoping to give Tyrone supporters more to shout about in the Ulster Championship after falling at the first hurdle in the last two campaigns Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

Tyrone’s alarming slump since winning the All-Ireland in 2021 must be reversed, according to skipper Peter Harte.

The Red Hands have failed to advance beyond the quarter-finals of either provincial or All-Ireland series since lifting Sam three years ago, during which time they have also had to battle to avoid relegation from Division One of the Allianz Football League.

Sunday’s Ulster SFC clash with Cavan offers an opportunity to begin the climb back towards the top of Gaelic football’s pile, but the form guide is less than encouraging ahead of their trip to Kingspan Breffni Park.

“The last few years haven’t been good enough and that’s probably the long and short of it, it’s about trying to improve this year, to be close and be tight, to win as many games as we can,” said Harte.

“We take each game as it comes now and the beauty of Ulster is that you can’t look far ahead at all because any of those teams can wipe you out as you’ve seen, there’s very little between each other in Ulster.”

Tyrone need to get a 21-point League drubbing at the hands of Dublin out of the system, but they face a Cavan side that followed up a decent Division Two campaign with an Ulster Championship preliminary round win over Monaghan at Clones.

“There’s plenty of learnings in every game, it’s probably the best thing about Division One and why everyone wants to be there,” said Harte (33), who embarks on his 15th championship campaign this weekend.

“You’re put to the pin of your collar every day out, some days it goes well and some it doesn’t, maybe the Dublin game was like that.

“Those top teams find out very quickly how to hurt you and Dublin are probably the best team at that.

“There was plenty for us to learn from that day and hopefully improve on, and plenty of boys got football, so hopefully it’ll help us coming into the Ulster Championship.”

Harte’s former Tyrone team-mate Stephen O’Neill is now Cavan’s forwards coach. His imprint was evident in the goal rush that sunk the Farney in the last round, and the former Footballer of the Year will have a few plays designed to hurt his native county.

“Stevie is one of the best forward coaches about, we loved him when he was in with Tyrone. He sees that game from the view of being a full-forward, where he wants the ball.

“You saw that when we were coached under Stevie, and even after that with Antrim, and you can see the same with Cavan now.

Stephen O'Neill
Stephen O'Neill (Hugh Russell)

“He has a strong track record as a player and a coach and we know what he’ll bring to Cavan and from what I’ve heard already they really enjoy working with him and we’ll have to have our heads on or we’ll get picked apart by some of Stevie’s plays.”

The Breffni boys will relish the opportunity to lure the Red Hands into the lion’s den. Raymond Galligan’s side feel they are primed to end a 10-game losing run to Tyrone in championship football stretching back to 1986.

“It’s a huge task, they were very impressive against Monaghan, they were full value for that win and in Division Two they played a lot of good football.

“Cavan probably had an off-day against Armagh, the same way we did against Dublin, but bar that they’ve played a lot of good football.

“They’ve unearthed a lot of other good footballers over the last few years as well so they’re going to be a serious task on Sunday and if we don’t play up to our standards we’ll be in big trouble.”