GAA Football

Some analysis of Tyrone's famous victory over Kerry 'lazy': Mickey Harte

Former Tyrone manager Mickey Harte was a big part of the BBCNI's Championship coverage after stepping away from the Red Hands Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

LEGENDARY manager Mickey Harte has labelled some of the post-match analysis of Tyrone’s thrilling All-Ireland semi-final win over Kerry as “lazy” and felt it “undervalued” his native county’s remarkable achievement.

The three-times All-Ireland winning manager also believes the trouncing the Red Hands suffered at the hands of the Kingdom during their Division One campaign – where they shipped six goals - was the chastening lesson that drove them on to greater heights.

While due praise was heaped on the Red Hands for their superb extra-time win over hot favourites Kerry last Saturday afternoon – thanks largely to goals from Conor McKenna (two) and Cathal McShane – there seemed just as much criticism of how Kerry played in the aftermath.

It was noted by some commentators there was no Ulster representative on The Sunday Game highlights show which included Kerry’s Tomas O Se, Meath’s Colm O’Rourke and Mayo’s Kevin McStay, although former Tyrone midfielder Sean Cavanagh was part of the ‘live’ broadcast on RTE.

After stepping down from the Tyrone post last November after 18 years at the helm, Harte attended last Saturday’s semi-final and was in awe of Tyrone’s display that saw them reach their second All-Ireland final in four years.

“It was one of those days when a lot of things come together at a time when it really matters,” said Harte, who guided Louth to promotion earlier this year.

“It’s the John Wooden saying: ‘Competitive greatness is being at your best when your best is required’.

“That’s just what they did - they had to be good on the day. And I think it’s silly, in many ways, that some people are writing Kerry off in that ‘Kerry didn’t play well – they’re not a good team’.

“Had they beaten Tyrone by a point or two they’d have seen as a heroic team. I think it’s a bit of a lazy way of analysing all these things. It’s undervaluing Tyrone’s achievement too. ‘Tyrone only beat Kerry because they were playing badly.’

“Why were Kerry playing poorly? Because Tyrone were making them play poorly – Tyrone were making them play like that.”

There has been keen debate in and outside the county over what’s exactly changed in tactical terms since the managerial change.

A firm consensus emerged after the Red Hands conceded six goals down in Killarney back in June 12 – a game that goalkeeper Niall Morgan described as his most embarrassing time on a field – that defensive tweaks had to be made and that perhaps too much was changed too quickly under new joint managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.

“I think it’s very clear that Tyrone learned a lot when they were in Killarney,” Harte said.

“The big thing was that this game has to be played a certain way otherwise you get destroyed and I think since that day they’ve changed it back to really what it was.

“There is a narrative out there that there was a brand new game-plan but I’m seeing what was exactly happening before and even the personnel is the same. They know they’ve got to play a certain way that suits the players we have – and it actually suits the way modern football is played.”

While former Tyrone Allstar midfielder and Irish News columnist Colm Cavanagh feels the 2021 version of Tyrone is no longer playing with the “handbrake on”, the changes may be as much psychological as they are tactical.

In his post-match press briefing after the Kerry win, joint boss Feargal Logan gave a modest assessment of the changing of the guard in Tyrone.

"Some people say the first year is the year you get a bounce," Logan said.

"Who knows? It’s been a fairly crazy journey with lockdown, zooms, starting into the training and then straight into the National League. We just hung in and we got an absolute toasting down in Killarney and we were laid bare for everybody to see. We went through to Ulster and we’re now happy to be in an All-Ireland final.”

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