Tyrone must win something to rejoin the elite - Mickey Harte
MICKEY HARTE says his current Tyrone squad has the potential to be as good as the 2008 vintage - but that they must deliver some silverware before they can be truly considered as being back among the elite.
They face Cavan in Sunday afternoon’s Allianz National League Division Two final at Croke Park and eyes will be on the Red Hands after a promising spring which saw promotion back to the top flight secured after five games.
There were hopes of a fourth All-Ireland title for the county when they pulled level with Kerry 10 minutes from the end of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, only for the Kingdom to break away late on. But despite relegation from Division One 12 months ago, the season as a whole represented a massive step forward for Tyrone.
They are many peoples’ favourites to win a first Ulster title since 2010 this summer and to be a real contender for Sam Maguire, but Harte says there is much left for his young side to prove.
Asked if this was his best squad outside of the All-Ireland winning sides, the long-serving Tyrone boss said: “Possibly, it’s heading that way, but that’s to be confirmed yet.
“It looks like it has that potential to be as strong, but you have to go out and do that on important days. Until the season goes on a bit and we see these players who aren’t in the first 15 coming in on any given day and establishing themselves and making a difference, then you could conclude what you’re suggesting. It’s a potential thing at the minute. You couldn’t put the reality stamp on that just yet.”
Six years since their 13th and last provincial success, Sean Cavanagh hinted in The Irish News on Monday that their eyes are firmly focused on bridging that gap.
The veteran forward spoke of their need to “really start valuing the Ulster title again”, and Harte believes the county became awash with complacency amid their success of the noughties.
“We were unfortunate, to a degree, that we met Donegal early on a few times in the preliminary rounds. We got tough draws that were against teams that were at the top of their form at that time while we were in transition, where we weren't as strong as we had been.
“So all of those things came into play. No more so than, I suppose, a degree of complacency among the general public in Tyrone. I've said this many times, we won back-to-back Ulster titles and two people came onto the field in Clones.
“The next year, when Donegal won it, 17,000 came on to the pitch, the year after Monaghan won it and there were 19,000 on it. It was being taken for granted by almost too many people.”
Harte has spoken in the past of the difficulty of achieving summer success from anywhere other than Division One. They had promotion back to the top flight secured after five consecutive wins and Harte told the media on Tuesday that he never believed his side deserved to be in Division Two.
“It all depends on what you interpret that I said. I said a Division Two team won’t win an All-Ireland. But you could have a team playing in Division Two but not of Division Two standard," he added.
“I believe we were above the standard. I don't think the football we played last year, we played some of our best football. We lost to Cork by a point, a dubious point. We played Kerry to a point, we had Dublin beaten out here, hit a ball off the post, we beat Mayo.
“We actually only played badly against the Ulster teams. Our worst performance was against Donegal. But otherwise, we played very well and were very competitive and I don’t believe we are a Division Two team.”
Darren McCurry is set to miss out again because of his ankle injury. The Edendork man hasn’t trained since picking up the injury in the second-half of their draw with Fermanagh.
Peter Harte also hasn’t trained with the team since their clash with Armagh because of a shoulder injury and missed Errigal Ciaran’s opening two league games, but he could still feature on Sunday.
Hugh Pat McGeary is also a doubt with a knee injury suffered on club duty with Pomeroy, while this weekend will come too soon for Ronan McNabb as he continues his rehabilitation from a torn ACL.