Tyrone have emerged as serious All-Ireland contenders after blazing a trail through Ulster on their way to retaining the Anglo-Celt Cup.
The Red Hand cast Derry, Donegal and Down aside handily as they successfully defended their provincial crown. The manner of their victories, coming out on top with dominating displays is what will have sent a warning message to the rest of the country. Without question, judging from what the 2017 championship has thrown up so far, Tyrone have established themselves as one of the best teams in the country, appearing to be perhaps the side best equipped to steal the Sam Maguire Cup from Dublin’s grasp.
Mickey Harte has his charges firing on all cylinders and that could be down to a special reason.
It has emerged that the entire Tyrone team take part in a pre-match ritual of reciting a decade of the rosary together at the request of their legendary manager.
Defender, Ronan McNamee has revealed that every player in the camp has bought into the concept, admitting that the ritual brings the players closer together, strengthening the bond between them as a team.
Harte is renowned for being a devout Catholic and although McNamee did reveal that the experience of praying may be new for some players who wouldn’t classify themselves as holy individuals, the idea has united the team further and gives them an edge on the field.
There appears to be an attitude in the Ulster champions’ set-up that if their manager asked them to jump, they would respond, “how high?”
“He (Harte) has a strong faith and naturally enough if you’re asked to do something, you do it. Everybody pulls the same way, whether it’s saying the rosary or going to Mass.
“I can imagine any county set-up is a tight group. You’re seeing each other a lot and in each other’s company an awful lot. It’s nearly a club set-up only at county level.
“I can only imagine every county is the exact same, it’s a close-knit unit and whatever stays in it, stays in it,” said McNamee. (Quotes via Irish Examiner)
Fellow Tyrone defender, Cathal McCarron had also made the revelation in his autobiography that the three-time All-Ireland winning boss requested the unusual ritual of his players before every game. McNamee continued to preach the word of Mickey Harte, citing no reason why every inter-county player shouldn’t recite the rosary before a match, or at least go to mass.
“It (the rosary) can’t do you any harm. I can’t imagine it’s going to cause anybody any upset. Whether we do it with Tyrone or not, I go to Mass every Sunday anyway.
“There is no reason why everybody can’t go to Mass the odd time,”McNamee expressed.
There seems to be a method to the unusual approach of Harte, and it certainly is paying dividends on the pitch. For the moment, the GAA Gods appear to answering all of Tyrone’s prayers. Whether that brings them to September glory in Croke Park remains to be seen.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of our weekly GAA podcast, The 16th Man. This week we spoke to Cathal McCarron after Tyrone’s Ulster championship triumph and Shane McGrath ahead of Tipperary vs. Clare this weekend.