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League Final

'You’d feel for any team that gets a battering' - Mickey Harte on facing Dublin

Former Tyrone boss looks to learn from Red Hands’ defeat to Dublin as he takes Derry into league decider.

THE CREST ON his tracksuit might be the Oak Leaf now, but Mickey Harte still could empathise with his former captain Brian Dooher after Tyrone took a 21-point shellacking from Dublin last weekend.

As a statement of intent, Harte is sitting up and taking notice before his Derry side take on the Dubs in the Division 1 league final this Sunday.

“You’d feel for any team that gets a battering,” said Harte of his former team.

“I’ve been there too, ya know? I was there with Tyrone one day in Tuam, the day Cathal McShane got injured (a 19-point defeat in February 2020).

“And I’ve been there with Louth on a couple of big days, so I know what it’s like and it is not a nice feeling for anybody.”

The terrifying prospect for Harte is that Dublin still have more experienced operators to return to the starting grid with the likes of Cormac Costello, Jack McCaffrey and Stephen Cluxton all back in the fold.

“They’re making a statement of intent here again. Because people were tending to say a that a lot to those older statesmen are gone and Dublin are not what they used to be and they had to take that for a while,” says Harte.

“I think they weren’t too enamoured about that, but they are firing back and saying ‘just take care what you say about us because we’ll show you we’re not a spent force.’”

Unlike some other managers who have raised the point in the past, Harte has no great desire to see Dublin pushed out of Croke Park for their league engagements.

“Well, they travel around the country and they don’t lose a lot either,” he says with a chuckle before going deeper.

“I think one of the years we won the All Ireland we played more games in Croke Park than we did in Omagh and we didn’t get too excited about that we didn’t mind it, it was good.

“But I still think it’s good to play in Croke Park. I think anyone who gets a chance to play in Croke Park they delight in it. I wouldn’t be for moving anything like that.

“Just go play it and get used to playing in it. And if you do enough to get used to playing in it then that will help your cause.”

When Derry hosted Dublin in the league this year, they were down a number of frontline players such as Conor Glass, Gareth McKinless and Conor Doherty. Ryan Scullion was deputising for Odhran Lynch in goal.

“Well, we didn’t put out the best team that we had,” said Harte.

“It was kind of, I suppose, a precaution because; number one if you put out your best team there’s no guarantee we’d win anyway.

“But if you did win then this unbeaten run is on in the league, and the talk is on because you won four games in a row that big things will happen and all of that and there isn’t the substance to be saying that if you’ve sense.

“If you’re an outsider looking in and want to paint a picture and create a narrative you can do that.

“So I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world that we didn’t win that game. I think it helps us to be where we are today.”

After the game, Derry are off to fit in a warm weather training camp in The Algarve. As Tyrone manager, Harte never went in for that, preferring instead to visit venues such as University of Limerick or Carton House for residential training weekends.

But nothing stays the same. He wouldn’t be in this game for his 22nd consecutive season if he did either.

“It’s this thing about life moving on. Things change,” he says.

“There’s lots of things happening now that I wouldn’t have done in the noughties and didn’t feel we needed to do. The whole game has got more complicated, more complex, it’s more strategic. There’s more thinking required.

“There’s more to this game of ours and I think that’s great.”

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