Errigal bosses draw on winning experience to push current crop on to championship glory

9/10/2022 Errigal Ciarans manager Mark Harte Picture Seamus Loughran.
Francis Mooney

MARK Harte and Adrian O'Donnell know all about the glory days of Errigal Ciaran, and they have pocketfuls of championship medals to prove it.

The current managers were team-mates in the sides that won Tyrone SFC titles in 2000, 2002 and 2006.

Harte had already tasted success as an 18-year-old rookie in the squad that lifted the O'Neill Cup in 1997, but both men have also been on the losers side on county final day.

Lives immersed in the GAA will turn full circle if they can cajole a talented young team to victory over Carrickmore in Sunday's final.

Lived experiences will inform much of the preparation for a clash of two of the county's giants.

“Any time you tog out for your club in championship, you pick up a bit of experience over the years,” said Harte.

“Some of those experiences are sore and very harsh, but they're sometimes the days where you learn the most.

“You learn some things from a victory, but probably more from defeat, and there's been a fair share of both throughout my career, so you take the learnings on both the victories and the defeats

“We do have a young team who are going to experience that as well, so we just hope that as a management team, every player gives the best of themselves, and if it's good enough on the day, it's good enough. If it's not, it's not.”

Neighbours and fierce rivals Carrickmore have rediscovered the club's famous battling spirit to reach a first final since 2014.

The clubs have men in five previous deciders, with Errigal one ahead in terms of head-to-head success.

“They were league champions last year, they gave us a fair lesson in the league this year, albeit most teams were missing a few players in the starred games, but ten points is still ten points,” said Harte.

“We have a gap to close, we know that, and we'll have to prepare as best we can.

“They have a serious streak of form, big under-age success. Those men have all matured now and they have got loads of experience to go with that too, so they have a potent mix.

“We have learned to our cost over the last couple of years in our meetings with them just how potent a mix that is.

“We know the quality that they bring, the tradition that they bring, they're in the final on merit, and whoever performs on the day ultimately is going to get the prize.”

Errigal dethroned reigning champions Dromore in the semi-final, stretching a dismal record for title-holders in the Red Hand county.

It's 17 years since the O'Neill Cup was successfully defended, Carrickmore having won back-to-back Championships in 2004 and 2005.

“Really there's a kick of a ball between so many clubs, and that's why the amount of games go to replays, extra-time and penalties over the last few years.

“You need a rub of the green, and our game against Dromore we probably got that. We stumbled over the line as opposed to driving over the line.

“We were under the cosh late in that game and we were relieved when the referee blew the final whistle when he did.

“Dromore's pedigree is unquestionable, they're county champions for a reason.

“Our next opponents have the same tradition, the same character and the same belief.

“I honestly believe that every year, every team in Division One in Tyrone believes that this could be their year, and that's the health state of the Tyrone Championship.

“We're no different than any other club. We believe that of we prepare right, we can give teams a game, and we also believe that on any day, we can be beaten.

So with no back door, and no groups, it's all about performance on the day.

“Okay, some of our performances have not been great in the championship this year, but we have manged to stay alive, and in the nature of knock-out football, that's what it's about.”