Harte happy as Derry deliver on the national stage in style

Veteran manager hails a deserved victory over the reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin in the league final

Mickey Harte’s day. Having taken the Derry manager’s job, the Tyrone pioneer raised eyebrows especially in his own county but his first campaign has now ended with national silver back on the mantelpiece.

His team crowned a faultless league with a performance of real substance and resilience. The only real cavil was that they had to win the contest three times, as the outplayed All-Ireland champions refused to go quietly although in the end, go they did.

Even his decision to defuse the team that played Dublin at the start of the month in Celtic Park, when Harte rested several front liners, was blessed by this ultimate success.

“I don’t know – you could speculate about all sorts of things. It was a decision we made and we felt it was the right decision at the time and because we won today it might seem to validate that but look, life’s not as simple as that. It’s quite more complex.”


The finale crowned a competition with a tumultuous epic of a league final and landed uncomfortably for those who had been advocating the abolition of the event and the awarding of the title to the table toppers.

Goals, extra time, red cards and penalties were all stuffed into a day that played out before 33,145 spectators on a cool, sunny spring afternoon.

“I just think it was a great day for Gaelic games,” said Harte afterwards, “and a great day for the national league finals to stay on the calendar because what an anticlimax it would have been if we had won the title last Sunday in Celtic Park compared to what had happened out there today.

“Is that not a great case for it? And what about all the other counties playing in league finals this weekend, I think they were all delighted to be there.”

It was a day when both of the [marginal] outsiders won. Donegal started by clipping Armagh with a late, late Aaron Doherty point.

Nobody will be happier than the people of Derry, however, with a Croke Park win over the All-Ireland champions to confound the charge that they had yet to beat anyone of substance in a big match at headquarters.

It took time but they eventually made it.

“We felt we had the game won three or four times,” said Harte, “but you don’t have it won if you haven’t put away the opposition – and we hadn’t put them away. They were determined and skilful enough and had enough resilience to come back. That’s what we found out today: you can’t beat Dublin and believe it’s a job you can do with 10 minutes to go, or five minutes to go – or one minute to go!”

Dublin had been in such promising form in the past few matches, the only caveat being the worth of the opposition, who had been variously afflicted with absence of personnel and what sometimes looked like absence of interest.

Those questions attained greater relevance when Dublin’s big guns stalled on the afternoon. Brian Fenton had to play second fiddle to Brendan Rogers at centrefield and few others managed to imprint themselves on the final with Ciarán Kilkenny and Con O’Callaghan both held scoreless from play.

There was further indignity when Fenton and Paddy Small were red-carded at the end of extra time – Fenton perhaps with a case to challenge the referee’s decision but Small, perhaps not so much for hurrying to get involved in a brief fracas after Dublin’s equalising goal seconds before the end of extra time.

Manager Dessie Farrell was disappointed with the outcome but content that his team refused to go gently. He evenly warmly welcomed evidence that the team had things to work on.

“Yeah, the lads showed great character because we were flat at times today, for whatever reason. That energy and drive wasn’t there that we would have hoped for.

“It looked at stages that they could pull away but we were able to hang on in there. And then in injury time to get over the bad start and salvage something and take it to penalties which was encouraging for sure.

“But we would be disappointed with goal chances coughed up, kickouts conceded today. There’s loads to work on and we knew that to be fair – that was the case and it’s great to actually see it, front and centre there today.

“We can take this game, look at the performance and really analyse it [so] that we can learn a lot from it.”