GAA Football

Tyrone native Brendan Trainor ready for head-to-head with former teacher Mickey Harte

Mickey Harte's Tyrone safely navigated the Ulster preliminary round, and take on Antrim tonight bidding for a place in the last four of the provincial Championship. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

HE has been taught by him, worked and coached alongside him, and this evening Brendan Trainor will pit his wits against Mickey Harte as part of the Antrim backroom team.

The Saffrons take on Trainor’s native Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds, with Harte set to lead the Red Hands out in Championship football for the 101st time in this Ulster quarter-final.

Trainer works at St Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley, but during his schooldays he saw at first hand the drive and energy Harte had for Gaelic football.

And when the Augher man returned to St Ciaran’s as a technician, he got involved in the coaching end of things with Harte.

“Mickey actually taught me PE,” says Trainor with a laugh.

“He was very enthusiastic towards football, had great time for anybody that was interested in football… he was just your typical teacher back in the ’80s, him and Robbie Hasson would’ve been the PE men here and they would’ve run a tight ship in terms of trying to get the best out of lads.

“I ended up coming back here as an employee and working alongside Mickey with school teams.”

Harte left the school in 2003, having led Tyrone to their first-ever All-Ireland title that summer. Two more would follow in 2005 and ’08, and it is an era Trainor looks back upon with fondness.

He admits it will be “odd” coming up against the Red Hands, but insists that all county loyalty will go out the window this evening as Antrim bid to pull off one of the greatest shocks in Ulster Championship history.

“It is an odd one, surely,” says Trainor, who previously worked alongside Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson at Armagh club Ballymacnab.

“I’ll just be treating it like any other game. Tyrone are one of the top teams at the minute and you just have to put your supporter feelings to one side and focus on the job at hand, and the lads you’ve been working with this last couple of years in Antrim.”

Tyrone start as 1/80 favourites - unsurprising considering last year’s All-Ireland finalists enjoyed a fine finish to their Division One campaign while the Saffrons laboured in the bottom tier.

Trainor, though, insists the Antrim players have to believe they are capable of pulling off what most would deem ‘mission impossible’.

“If you lift any newspaper or read any article, people are saying it should be a formality for Tyrone to reach an Ulster semi-final.

“You don’t read into that much. Before every game you look at your opposition and you detach yourself from what others are saying and put your own view on it, and put that across to the players.

“That’s what we’ve done with Tyrone; it’s another team, another player. We’re going out looking for a win, there’s no other way about it.

“People say ‘ah, you’ll do well to keep the score down’ – certainly not. We know that if we can get it right on the day that we’re well capable of a win.”

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