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01st Apr 2024

What Mickey Harte said after Derry’s win gave us a rare peek into what goes on in the background

Lee Costello

Mickey Harte

“We had put so much into this.”

Derry beat Dublin to become Division One champions, but more importantly, they took a scalp of the biggest, best and meanest team in the country, all in their own back yard.

What the victory means to manager Mickey Harte and his players was apparent from how they went after the game, and their sheer refusal to give up or let the trophy slip from their hands.

Despite being in the lead on several occasions, the game was all square and went into extra time, only for the Oakleafers to take a three-point lead again, before a Dublin goal in the last second meant that the game went to penalties.

Odhran Lynch was the hero once again on this occasion, and Harte won his first Division One title since 2003, when his Tyrone team won everything there was to play for that year.

However,  speaking to BBC Sport NI afterwards, their manager praised the character of the group and gave us a rare peek into their mindset and how they approached this league.

Mickey Harte

“It was not good for our hearts and we had to win it many times but the good thing is that we won it when it mattered most, at the end,” Harte said.

“Each time there was break we said we had put so much into this, invested so time and energy into this – wouldn’t it be an awful thing to lose.

“The fact they stood up to Dublin for 70 odd minutes, that gave them confidence that they’re in the fight. They were never really outplayed or outmanoeuvred.

“Sometimes they were behind and clawed their way back. Through the ups and downs of being in a position to win the game but have it taken from you.

“Ultimately the penalties – that’s nerve-wracking after the amount of energy they expended and to be able to take those penalties with the aplomb they did, thank God for that.”

What’s interesting about Harte’s wording, is that they clearly placed the League Title as their top priority for this campaign, something that a lot of counties openly did not do.

Mayo’s Kevin McStay even said that they didn’t want to make the final, so the idea that Harte kept reminding his team about how much they had “invested in this” makes it obvious that they had no intention of doing anything other than winning the league.

It’s Derry’s first Division One title since 2008, and now they will firmly have their eyes fixed on Donegal and the Ulster championship.

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