In preparation for Sunday’s rivalry between Tyrone and Kerry. We present the follow-up to The Damned United, starring Mickey Harte. Imagine an alternate universe where a very angry man and his internal monologue makes the move south.
You Think. Think it over. Think about the betrayal. The sense of outrage in even thinking about it. Thinking. Thinking of the possibility. Chance to fix them. To solve them. Think and ruefully, stupidly, accept.
A press conference. Only they would call a press conference to announce a manager.
Them and their f*cking Kerry group and rancid RTE and a room full of their journalists. Journalists who don’t understand, don’t understand true football and swear loyalty to this kingdom, each and every one of them egotistical, fickle morons. Think about all those Kerry journos.
‘We would like to thank Fitzmaurice for his loyal service and success delivered under his reign….’
Him. Not as bad as that b*stard O’Connor. But close. Close because he doesn’t understand, they don’t understand.
‘We are delighted to unveil a man who has enjoyed unprecedented success in his own county…’
None of them will expect this, they hate me but love them. A conflicting situation. How can you hate the head but love the body. But they’ll have too, have to because I’m here to stay.
‘The new Kerry Football manager, Mickey Harte.’
You’re the boss of the kingdom. Sit in the throne, still his throne. Look at the team, still his team. His influence is too deep. He’s groomed these men since under-21. They know no other way, but they’ll have too. The required prosthetic for the idealist severed head that sat on these arrogant shoulders.
Sit in Killarney. They’re unsure of you. Everywhere you go, people are hesitant, distant. A wannabe city, full of opinionated football experts. ‘I hope you won’t be using them blankets down here, boy.’ They haven’t a f*cking clue.
You watch. Watch them train. Watch them run, over forty yards between them and pass. Kicking the ball. Intertwining and kicking. Like apes hopping around trees tossing bananas to each other. This isn’t football. This is idle entertainment.
‘Stop kicking the f*cking ball! Get closer, hand-pass, tackle properly. Referees won’t be so soft on you now that I’m here.’
A history of banana-tossing and going for goals and influencing referees and planting big mountains on the edge of the square to kick balls too. Everything needs to change. No more watching entertainment. Time to play real football.
Sit them down. Mindless monkeys.
In the dressing room sit them down and look at tippy-tappy Cooper, all style no substance. A football genius? He doesn’t know how to play true football, doesn’t know defence. Can’t defend, can’t be a footballer. No more Gooch tippy tapping.
Look at O’Donoghue. The stereotypical white boots, gelled hair selfish corner forward. Not able to win properly. He’s not Sean Cavanagh. None of these divas are Sean Cavanagh. All we have is a Joe McMahon wannabe in O’Mahony. This won’t do at all.
‘Why would we do it?’
‘It goes against everything this county is about.’
‘In what way?’
‘We don’t do transfers. Players are reared, trained and used here. From Tarbert to Kenmare, that’s our pool. Not players in Tyrone. Not him.’
‘We need him. He’ll work for the Kerry Group or whatever other sorry excuse for a job you construct for these players. He’s what I need.’
‘We gave you this job under the assumption you would do the best for this county. We want to continue our legacy, we thought you were the best man for the job.’
‘You seem reluctant to my way. Instead of ye county boardsmen sitting around in your paddy caps and cotton jumpers with worried brows and a Guinness moustache, anxious, be happy. The reason I beat ye lot in ’03 and again in ’05 and again in ’08 was simple, I know football. We’ll stop teams. I won’t rest until we build a legacy here so that along the dingle way or the majestically tacky McGillycuddy Reeks the only name that people will sing about is Mickey Harte. Make the transfer happen.’
Team meeting. Dynamic here is wrong. Dynamic here is foolish. I don’t need contributors and the opinions of the masses. I am the commander, all I need is a general like Cavanagh and then foot soldiers who do as there told. Now I have my new general.
Galvin:‘why are we playing like this?’
‘Like what? We only lost to Dublin by a point last weekend, it’s the league, by championship I’ll have that defensive mistake out of ye and you’ll learn to see out games.’
‘But the score was 0-1 to 0-2. You played Jamesie at corner-back. Gooch wasn’t even starting.’
F*ck off Galvin. Thick fashionista. You’re not the general, you’ll see who the general is.
‘O’Donoghue is fine at corner-back because he can help us counter attack. He’s not strong enough to play as our soul forward. He’s no peter Canavan. As for Cooper, when he learns to defend he can play. We’ve a new player joining the panel.’
In he comes.
They gasp and whisper and go white. White as the surrender flag they waved when we beat them in ’08. My Tiernan. Tiernan McCann. He does what he’s told. He does what it takes to win. No silly kick-passes. Run hand-pass and run again. Strong enough to go down under contact. Stick that in your meeting.
The pretty Fitzgerald Stadium with it’s pretty scenery and pretty stand and pretty green and gold. It’s no fortress. Nothing like Omagh. The collective buzz of disgruntled Kerry accents carries down to you on the side-line. How can we loss a Munster semi-final. They’re outraged. Downright furious. They just can’t understand. The qualifers is how you win. No Munster finals. Trips to Sligo and Meath and f*cking Cavan.
Off comes Darren O’Sullivan. He’s done as he was told. Dyed his hair, blonde. Like Mulligan. Magnificent Mulligan. Good boy Darren. You’re not so bad. Good lad is Darren.
Straight. Past gleaming pictures of Spillane and O’Se and Fitzgerald. Past the kingdom’s false mementos and Munster cups which they may as well give away for free. Right, past green and gold. Keep going. Know you’re the intruder who these folk despise. A single man siege mentality. Galvanise you, galvanise the mind. Galvanise you to deal with Galvin and the rest of them. Right where you want to be, everyone against you.
Red-faced. Complete slap in the face. Like the slap the red hand delivered in ’03 and ’05 and ’08 to the Kings. Out in a quarter-final. Arrogant minions chasing goals instead of points. Prioritising getting scores above stopping them. Murphy got the ball and turned for goal, and the fools tried to tackle the ball. Slap it. No one willing to do what it takes. No one there to pull him down. To deliver a rugby tackle. No Sean Cavanagh.
McGee flicked O’Donoghue’s ear and he pushed him. No ability to take his opportunity. No ability to dive. To get McGee sent off. Can’t do what it takes to win.
‘A team at war with their manager…’
At war? They don’t know war. We gave them war in ’03 and ’05 and ’08. They can’t handle war. War is a prelimary round clash with Donegal in Letterkenny.
‘Abandoned the principles of their proud county…’
Laugh. Just Laugh. They think they’re the kings of football. They can’t. Can’t play sweepers, can’t hand pass. Can’t dive and win frees and tackle. Their sledging is pathetic ‘You’re hair looks silly’ they said. ‘We’re the kings of football’ they said. Can’t get personal. Can’t do what it takes to win.
Time to go home. Leave now, get home before dark. Convince yourself it was all a dream. A bad dream. Home in time to tuck Sean into bed. Take his hand. The red hand. The proper football hand.