10 Mar 2016

One step at a time for Harte

ALLIANZ NFL DIV2 – Tyrone v Derry Reaction 
Four successive league wins and another scalp over their greatest rivals rounded off a satisfactory evening’s work for Mickey Harte’s side.  The media duties would have to wait as he and ‘The Horse’ went off to greet a Tyrone fan who was suffering from illness.  Football touches everyone. 
Pic Northern Sound

In the interim we watched on as the Tyrone players concluded their warm down on the Healy Park surface and carried out their customary handshakes.  Each player embracing their teammates.  Another mission was complete and the steam coming off their post battle bodies in the ice-cold Omagh air was visible. 

Underneath it all something else is becoming more apparent - this team is on a mission.  There is unfinished business from last August and with a batch of successful U21s added to the mix, the Red Hand machine is coming along nicely. 
The Tyrone manager’s main focus continues to be getting out of division two.  “I was disappointed going into it last year.  We did hurt because of that because I felt we were good enough to stay there, but the league table didn't tell any lies.” 
Tyrone’s superiority over Derry remains but Harte stresses that the two points was all that mattered.  “We were comfortable in several points of it. It was a big win and two league points, that was the most important thing. It has no bearing on what went before and it will have no bearing on what is coming later.” 
The running power of Sean Cavanagh, Aidan McCrory and Tiernan McCann punched holes in the Derry defence.  The Tyrone boss was appreciative of this but insists they are not one-dimensional. 
I think we have players who are capable of moving at speed and in control of the ball. So yes, it is something we can do. But I don't think it is the only way of playing the game, we can mix and match a bit more than that.” 

The kickouts had a major bearing on Tyrone’s win, much like the McKenna Cup in Owenbeg the Red Hands undone Derry’s kickout and it had an influence on the game, especially before half time and overall Tyrone won 38% of Derry’s restarts. 
Would this be the tactic Tyrone will hone in on most of all ahead of the championship clash?  “Well, it all depends on who the personnel are on the field. Derry have another goalkeeper [Thomas Mallon] who is very accurate with his kickouts.  Maybe tonight the goalie who was in was under a bit more pressure.” 

Richard Donnelly had the ball over the bar within 46 seconds of the second half.  Tyrone had no intention of sitting back to defend a four point lead.  Harte’s message was to go for the jugular.  The best form of defence is attack. 
“The way to survive is to at least go point for point. So every time Derry could score, we could answer them back. If we could do that, and not lose the second half then we could win the game and that was our goal.” 

With twenty five minutes remaining Derry had pegged back the lead to just three points but it was Tyrone who finished the game much stronger. 

“We had energy to come in off the line tonight as well. I think that helped, it gave us an injection of pace when other people were tiring. If you have players who are energetic and fit to get about the place, you can put them into the game when it is 50 or 55 minutes old and that's what we did tonight.” 

With the wide range of options Harte’s man management is key.  It’s about getting people to buy into the overall plan.  The GPS trackers will flag up the players going into the ‘red zone’ and it’s time for a change. 
“You need people fresh to come in for the last twenty minutes of a game. They know they only have 25 minutes to last the pace and there are players now who accept that that's the way the game is played.” 

Tyrone scored 2-15 but spurned a further 1-16 worth of chances, including thirteen wides, some of which were relatively easy chances.  Harte didn’t overly dwell on this aspect of the performance.  It was all about the result. 
A lot of good chances created that we didn't get the return on. But everything is not going to be perfect on any night. Ultimately it was about getting two league points, staying unbeaten in this league to get as close as we can to the final.” 

With the youthful element of the team beginning to bed in and blossom, Harte recognises the contribution of the old guard, the likes of Sean Cavanagh.   

He [Cavanagh] hadn't played a lot of football until recently and you can see that he has the energy back now, the appetite for it and it was lovely to see him finishing a goal as well.” 

The Tyrone boss was faced with the elephant in the room – the situation surrounding the availability of highly respected strength and conditioning coach Peter Donnelly.   

“I never considered that he was away. I am not party to the politics of the game, I just think that Peter Donnelly is a wonderful asset to this county and I hope he stays there for a long time.” 

The Tyrone manager chose not to rest on his laurels and keeps looking forward.  The ambitions in the county will surely be fixed on playing football in August and challenging again for ‘Sam’ but for now Harte looks no further than Meath. 
“Every game, there are two points up for grabs. As long as you keep getting two points you are getting near to promotion.  Every team presents a different challenge and there is going to be another challenge in Navan. We have to adjust to whatever that challenge may bring and see where that takes us.” 

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