GAA Football

Following in Mickey Harte's footsteps brings pressure and opportunity says Brian Dooher

Cathal McShane was part of Dooher and Logan's successful Tyrone U21 side. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

FOLLOWING in the footsteps of a living legend does bring pressure, agrees Brian Dooher, but the new Tyrone joint-manager will embrace the challenge with the style and skill that won him three All-Ireland titles.

Dooher was one of Mickey Harte’s senior lieutenants during the glorious Sam Maguire years and he intends to utilise the experience of those successes after taking up the Red Hands reins along with Feargal Logan.

“There is pressure, it’s a challenge and it’s an opportunity as well,” said Dooher.

“When we were playing, Mickey provided us with a platform to be the best we could be and that worked out in 2003, ’05 and ’08 and that was because of the structures that Mickey and the county board put in place.

“Now it’s up to us to put them in place so that our players can develop to their full potential. Who knows what’s out there in front of us? But all we can do is be the best we can and see where that takes us.”

Dooher and Logan were the early favourites to succeed Harte and ultimately are a popular joint-ticket. Both are excited by the opportunity to guide their county to success but they admitted that the role was not something they had planned for.

“We were lucky, we had good times with the U21s and that group of boys form the core of the current team and we’re looking forward to working with them again and seeing where that takes us,” said Dooher.

“Our main aim is trying to create an environment here where the boys that we have in the panel can give their best for Tyrone football.”

Logan said their appointment owed something to fate, timing and luck as well as “a wee bit of skill”.

“I can’t say I walked off the field the last time with a burning desire to end up where I am here now,” said the Omagh-based solicitor.

“It’s probably an amount of fate, a bit of luck, a bit of timing and hopefully a wee bit of skill. Once I finished with Stewartstown Harps, I started back into managing and then playing and managing for a few years and then we were lucky enough to have a bit of success with Tyrone U21s so maybe, when that all came together, I began to think: ‘Well, maybe this is a challenge I could take on?’

“Like everyone else, you’re mainly taking on challenges to prove things to yourself, not to anybody else.

“It’s a combination of factors coming together and timing so we’re privileged and honoured and we’re very conscious of the heavy responsibility that we’re taking on and we’re hoping to get at it and hope that it goes forward swimmingly.

“The overall feeling is a privilege and an honour.

“There’s a bit of trepidation in what we’re taking on. At the end of the day everyone has had a horrendous year with Covid and we hope that Covid passes by and we get a vaccine going. Next year could be a bit stuttered because of Covid so we don’t know how the National League will be, the McKenna could be gone. We’re just going to have to ride the waves and hope that we stay on top of them.”

Both men paid tribute to Mickey Harte who stepped aside after 18 years as manager in the aftermath to Tyrone’s Ulster Championship loss to Donegal.

“Mickey has been a brilliant servant of Tyrone football,” said Logan.

“He was steadfast at his post and I hope that Brian and myself can be as steadfast in manning the position now. Tyrone football is up there, we all know that.”

He hopes that the players, fans and officials who backed Harte will give him and Dooher the same support.

“Mickey, the players who played with him and every man who came into his backroom team, every supporter who pushed this thing up the hill to the summit… We have the highest respect for everyone who put their shoulder to the wheel,” said Logan.

“The clubs are coaching young lads, we have people working on the ground and every day and we’re in the privileged position that we get them almost as a finish product.

“All we’re asking that everybody puts their shoulder to it again and that helps push us on and we all get to where we want to be.”

Dooher insists that the new set-up will have an “open door policy” and that the new management will want to speak to players who impressed in this year’s Tyrone club championship. However, there will be some familiar faces for them to work with too.

Included in the U21 side that beat Tipperary to clinch the All-Ireland title five years ago were Cathal McShane, Frank Burns, Rory and Lee Brennan, Mickey Cassidy, Conor Meyler, Mark Bradley and Kieran McGeary. Those players form the nucleus of the current senior squad and Logan is looking forward to working with them again.

“When you’re about a football squad you get to know players intimately so we won’t have to catch up on those players, we’ll have a bit to do with them but we know their every move because we’ve managed,” he said.

“We’re glad to get working with them again because they are talented footballers. Tyrone have entrusted us with moving forward with those guys so we’re delighted, it will ease the transition and all we can do is stand on our record of how we played with the U21s – they were fairly exciting front-foot games so hopefully that will come to pass.”

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GAA Football