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Monday 25 September 2017

Harte puts last year's heroics aside as focus builds for Down challenge

Tyrone’s Peter Harte celebrates after scoring the winning point late in last year’s Ulster final against Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone’s Peter Harte celebrates after scoring the winning point late in last year’s Ulster final against Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

After eight years in a Tyrone jersey, Peter Harte may have a couple of Ulster medals, but he feels he only truly deserves last year's, after the epic final ten minutes of their win over Donegal.

It was his point from 50 yards that edged the Red Hands ahead as the game crept into injury time.

His previous medal came when he was sent on for Brian McGuigan in the 2010 Ulster final for the last ten minutes, but by that stage Monaghan had been routed by a team that sounds now from another age; Hughes, McConnell, McMenamin, Mulligan, Dooher…

No wonder that when he puts his two medals side by side, he feels differently about them.

"In 2010, it was the Tyrone team of the noughties, the treble All-Ireland winners. Now it is all boys of a similar age, maybe there is a different vibe to the team," the 27-year-old teacher admits.

Down’s Ryan Johnston celebrates after the Mourne County’s Ulster semi-final win over Monaghan. Photo: Sportsfile
Down’s Ryan Johnston celebrates after the Mourne County’s Ulster semi-final win over Monaghan. Photo: Sportsfile

"It was the first time you felt like it was your team, your boys that, at the same age, that you have grown up with. In 2010, there wasn't two Tyrone fans on the pitch.

Last year was enjoyed more by the fans and maybe that was because we haven't been as successful. There was a big difference in the two experiences.

"The first year was the same feeling within the team as the last year in that we were very hungry to win medals and do well, so we have to look forward to this week, the chance of winning an Ulster title and being champions again."

As well as the fans' reaction, Harte's feelings about last year's final have to be tangled up in the feeling of kicking that incredible late point. On a scorcher of a day, he took possession around 55 metres from the goal, let fly and it sailed over with another 20 yards to spare in an incredible feat of skill.

"I think sometimes you go on your feeling on the pitch. Whether it's a pass or a shot or a bit of a play. It's one of those things. Once I got it I felt the shot was on and thankfully it sailed over.

"At that time, it's just the ball in your hand," he explains.

"You don't have time to be thinking of what the rest of your body is doing. You're just hoping the ball gets over the bar. It's probably one of those things you forget about as time goes on.

"I don't want to dwell on it too much, because you always have to be ready for the next game. If you are thinking about the last game or last year you are going to snooker yourself. So you always have to look forward to the next performance."

The next performance is this Sunday, against Down. While the rest of the football world outside of Down felt the earth shift after they beat Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final, Harte felt different based on the evidence he saw first-hand.

Talented

"I have played a lot of football with the Down boys in college, Railway Cup over the last number of years," he reveals.

"The Down boys are exceptionally talented. They are real good footballers and it didn't surprise me to see Jerome Johnston, Ryan Johnston and all those lads playing well. Kevin McKernan kicking scores. I played with them and seen them do it.

"They have beat Armagh and beat Monaghan and are coming in with good form behind them."

He added, "Hopefully they will not surprise us with their performance because we have seen how good they can be and I am sure they can get even better because that's what all teams are looking to do, to improve upon performances the next day out."

After his first year and that Ulster medal, it took Harte another six seasons to experience final day as a player. It has rekindled his, and the wider Tyrone public's appreciation of the showpiece day.

"They don't come around that easy. Probably my first year on the panel we got to an Ulster final and I thought 'this is the way it is going to be', but five years later I hadn't won it since," he points out.

"You start to realise that it is precious, it is a great place to be and it doesn't come around that often.

"So you have to take that wee bit of enjoyment in being there."

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