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04th Mar 2024

Mickey Harte on first defeat as Derry manager and the surprising reason he didn’t play Conor Glass

Lee Costello

Mickey Harte

Mickey Harte opens up on suffering his first defeat as Derry manager thanks to a brilliant Dublin performance, and why he decided not to play his captain Conor Glass.

The game was tipped to be a battle between the two best teams in the league on current form, with both counties in flying and racking up high scores as they trampled those in front of them.

Derry, in particular, have bolted from the pack, starting their best team possible in almost every opportunity they got, including the opening game against Kerry when Harte selected three Watty Graham’s Glen players even though they had just won the club All-Ireland six days previously.

However, against Dublin, the former Tyrone boss decided now was the time to rest key stars like Glass, who didn’t feature, and keep big names like Ethan Doherty and Eoin McAvoy on the bench.

Ciaran Kilkenny and Brian Fenton did most of the damage for Dublin, and Harte is hopeful that his team will have learned some lessons from the game.

“I thought it was a good game,” explained the Derry boss, “It was a good battle in the first half and that was playing against the elements which levelled off a bit in the second half.

“They’re a top-class side, you have to test yourself against the best, and you find out why they’re so good. You can’t afford be behind going down the home straight against a team like Dublin who can take care of the ball and draw you out, so that was a difficult place. We didn’t want to be in that place but we found ourselves in it.

“If Shane McGuigan’s goal had gone in, it might have changed the complexion of the game but Dublin were always difficult to break down and dangerous on the break. A good side, that’s why they’re All-Ireland champions and that’s why you learn from the best sides of the country so I hope we learned something tonight.”

Mickey Harte on the surprising reason why didn’t play Conor Glass.

When asked about the absence of Glass, it was surprising to hear that Harte decided now was the time for the Glen club man to be rested.

“He has been through a lot over the last two years and he would be willing to play but at the same time we felt it was good to give him a break and I hope it he enjoys his break,” said Harte.

“You want to put players in against the best and see what that standard is like. Some of our newer and younger players will have seen that tonight and that’s good.

“Our ambition was to try and keep our Division One status and while it’s not mathematically one thousand per cent, we did feel it was in a right good place, so we felt it was time to maybe make a few changes and give a few other lads a chance,” he said.

It seems a bit strange that the midfielder couldn’t be rested when he had just won a club All-Ireland and was obviously enjoying the celebrations. Still, now with the defending county All-Ireland champions coming to town, he could be excused.

It is likely that Harte simply wanted to solidify his side’s place in Division One as early as possible so he could start tapering off a little, rest a few players, and have them going into the Ulster championship and potentially a League final as fresh as possible.

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