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Harte never lost the faith

Niall Sludden and Tyrone sent Donegal tumbling

EVEN the most optimistic Tyrone fan wouldn’t have anticipated a demolition job in yesterday’s Ulster Championship semi-final rout of Donegal, but Mickey Harte never lost faith in his side’s capacity to surprise during one of the more challenging periods of his 15-year tenure.

The public and plaudits alike have cast the Red Hands as a prototypically dour, defensive side – the type of side with a natural ceiling given its apparent offensive limitations.

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They banished that particular stereotype in a cathartic nine-point victory – 1-21 to 1-12 – against their old adversaries Donegal at Clones yesterday as a dozen Tyrone men dissected the posts against Rory Gallagher’s off-colour side.

Harte said it was a result that was 18 months in the making – and one that will count for nought if they don’t go on to successfully defend their Ulster title against either Monaghan or Down next month.

He said, “I’m an eternal optimist anyway, I’ve been seeing that a long time in coming for the last year and a half. I knew that some day we’d deliver the performance we’re capable of.

“Of course the conditions were suited to us today, we do like the dry sod on a hot day in Clones. You don’t always get that but when they’re there, it’s nice to avail of them.”

He added, “The bottom line is that we’ve played two matches in Ulster and there were no cups handed out on any of those two days. There’s another one to be played.

“If at the end of the final we don’t have the cup in our hands then this will be a very different result.”

At the same time, this wasn’t the proverbial stroll in the park either. While points glittered like confetti at one end of the pitch, the likes of Tiernan McCann, Padraig Hampsey and Ronan McNamee manned the house at the other, forcing innumerable turnovers.

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“It’s easy to sit now and look at the scoreboard and think we had an easy day out.

“No we hadn’t, we worked very hard for 45-50 minutes and that maybe made the last 15 or 20 not as tense as they might have been.

“We worked ourselves into that position to be able to see out the game comfortably,” Harte continued.

“When you look and reflect at the video evidence, there’s a lot we could tidy up on.”

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