#TheToughest Analysis: Tyrone's Peter Harte is like nothing football has ever seen before
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It was a quiet opening spell in Clones for Peter Harte.
By his own soaring standards, the classy half back/half forward/full forward/whatever the hell you want him to be wasn’t dominating the Ulster semi-final with Cavan with the same sort of unforgivable authority that he’s held on football fields for the last few years.
It was a tight encounter and Mickey Harte’s illustrious number seven seemed to be just feeling his way into the clash.
0-1 to 0-0, Cavan led. Tyrone equalised. Tyrone led, Cavan equalised. It went like that until the scores were 0-5 apiece after a third of an hour.
But in the 23rd minute, all those to-and-fros ceased. In the 23rd minute, Peter Harte exploded into life from absolutely nowhere and put an end to the madness. If the contest was on a knife edge, the Errigal Ciaran man ruthlessly and mercilessly flipped that sharp blade and butchered any fleeting thoughts that Sunday’s replay in Monaghan would be anything like the first day out.
In the 23rd minute, he had enough of sitting on the periphery and seemingly enough of Cavan as he burst off the shoulder and ghosted in on goal from the left hand side.
No-one seemed to know who was picking him up, no-one knew where he came from and no-one had any idea how, with the tightest of angles, he first had the audacity and then the skill to hit the roof of the net and start a two-minute blitz that would cruelly and abruptly end Cavan’s afternoon.
A matter of seconds later and he was on the end of Tiernan McCann’s run, hitting nothing but net yet again before he curled over a spectacular effort from beneath the Gerry Arthur Stand and brought the Tyrone contingent to its collective feet.
Two minutes or thereabouts was all Peter Harte needed to notch seven points and help Tyrone do what any All-Ireland material team could do to you given half a chance – put you out of sight at the first sniff of blood.
And he did it with all the effortless grace of a man who could solo a ball across a tightrope. He did it with the composure and calmness of a Matrix-style Gaelic Footballer who was seeing tackles in slow motion before they even happened. He did it from God knows where on the field – he just kept popping up from nowhere.
Thomas Muller – the Germany and Bayern Munich legend – was once asked about his position because no-one was too sure where he was playing – they still aren’t. He turned around to reporters and labelled himself the “Raumdeuter”, which roughly translates as the space investigator. He’s an explorer of space, unbound by the chains of position and he’s always there at the right place at the right time. After a decade of doing it, it’s not luck.
Peter Harte is the #GAA's answer to Thomas Muller.
A space explorer who just pops up when you never even think he's in the vicinity
— Conán Doherty (@ConanDoherty) July 3, 2016
Peter Harte is the GAA’s answer to Thomas Muller. But instead of a Raumdeuter, Peter Harte is Ireland’s very own and very first ‘Taiscéalaí Spás”.
He’s free in Tyrone’s system to go and explore. Like a clever bull testing the strength of a fence at different points, searching for the weak spot, looking to see where it will cave first, Peter Harte hounds out areas of vulnerability and, at the first sight of freedom, he bolts, he charges, he heads straight for the jugular of his oppressors.
Just like Derry before them, Cavan fell victim to the spy hawk Harte who couldn’t even be picked up by radar. He approached undetected and when he saw a target, he launched at it with deadly ferocity. When he saw a target, he went at it with full-on kamikaze abandonment but, for the most part, he had the skill and the wit to walk away from the wreckage unscathed.
“He’s a quality player,” Mickey Harte spoke with SportsJOE after the game about his prized space explorer. “He’s got great balance, he can turn both ways, he’s got good pace and he can cut loose at a great pace. He has a lot of attributes that make him a serious player.
“He’s comfortable up front or at the back and it’s good to have a player who’s as adaptable or as flexible as that.”
The Tyrone manager conceded that any player can be marked but it remains to be seen. Conventionally, perhaps. But Peter Harte is not a conventional player.
He’s a pioneer of a new type of footballer that plays within the confines of modern day defences and still manages to rip them to shreds. He attacks virtually from nowhere and, when he does, he is brutal and relentless.
He plays with a sort of disciplined freedom. He’s always there to do his job and yet he’s always there looking as if he’s free-wheeling out of control at the other end.
He’s always there. And no-one knows how. Or why.
Peter Harte’s class and effect is, as of yet, unexplained. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen to date but it’s as good as everything we’ve seen to do date.
All we know is that, if Tyrone really are going to mount an ambush on Dublin or even just breach the Donegal resistance, they’ll need their silently deadly, undefined genius at the very peak of his considerable powers.
All we know is that, if football is to come out of this supposed crisis it finds itself in, it needs more men like this man reinventing the game as we know it. It needs more men like this man creating a new wave of footballers and assuring us that there’s still magic in this sport.
And, do you know what? You could do a lot worse than genuinely starting to think about preserving Peter Harte’s semen for the future of Tyrone. Preserving it for the future of football.