Mickey Harte will be begin his tenure with Louth at home to Antrim this Saturday (Throw in 3pm)
It isn’t often that news about the appointment of a new Louth Senior football manager becomes a national story, a couple of lines in the daily newspapers and maybe a quick announcement at the end of radio bulletins being as far as the story travels beyond the realms of the county.
But last November a short press release from Louth GAA had the sports fans of the nation talking as out of the blue they learnt that Mickey Harte would be leading the Wee County into the 2021 season.
That announcement may have been a surprise to most but in the background the county board Chairmen Peter Fitzpatrick had been asking the right questions, letting him know the opportunity to come to Louth may be arising soon and was rewarded for his perseverance.
“My late brother Pete lived down in Knockbridge for many years with his wife Ethna and his two boys Fergal and Peter Jr so obviously I had a great affinity with the county” stated Harte as he explained why he had chosen Louth as his next job having led his native Tyrone for 17 years.
“I’ve known Peter over a number of years now and always found him a straight-talking and good man to deal with. I would be meeting him from time to time and was aware that he was thinking ahead with the new stadium and that the county board was ambitious.”
“He mentioned the job to me and I said I couldn’t say anything right now until things were made public that I wasn’t with Tyrone and whenever that is public knowledge I’ll speak to you. So I had a good conversation with him and with Gavin Devlin and we agreed that we would go for it.”
The former All Ireland winning manager began working with his extended panel before Christmas, however as was the case across the country sport was once more brought to halt due to another Lockdown.
While he would have much preferred to get on with the action in January as planned, the break allowed Harte more time to get to know his new players, keeping tabs on his panel through weekly zoom calls along with utilising Lú TV to re-watch the club championships.
From his time with the players and the videos he has seen, Harte feels there is a high standard of football in the county, with his panel containing the right blend of youth and experience needed for any inter county panel to be a success.
“The people that are there are very keen and good footballers, so it is just a question of building their confidence and belief in themselves, whenever you don’t have a good season it is easy to get disheartened and feel you’re not as capable as you are.”
“We looked back at their matches last year and they could’ve won several of the games they were pipped in, so it wasn’t a case that there was no hope, there is plenty of hope there, it is just question of stirring up a bit belief in those players again.”
The immediate target he has set his troops is gaining promotion from Division Four but is under no illusions of the task that they face with Antrim, Leitrim and Sligo all just as eager to escape the GAA graveyard.
The Glencull native was full of praise for those in charge of his opponents, stressing he will know a lot more about his side following what will be a cutthroat National League campaign where getting off to a good start will be pivotal to any success.
“They are all good management teams and are ambitious counties that want to raise the bar for themselves. I think it will be a good barometer for where we’re at as we are in a tough group and we have to be on our toes as with the condensed league you’ve no room for error.”
“You need to hit the ground running because its not like you have seven league games, and you can lose one or two and still make it into the top two so it is a big ask but it is the same for everybody. We have got to be ready when the season starts and take every game like a mini championship.”
The arrival of one of the sport’s greatest tacticians has brought huge enthusiasm to the football community in Louth, resulting in more work rate and commitment from players and staff, while also giving supporters a new lease of life and a sense of hope that had been lost in recent years.
Harte is delighted at the great welcome he has received from Louth, but stressed he is ‘no messiah’ and that he knows that to keep that good will, he will need to make sure the Senior team perform.
In the end his ultimate goal is to leave the county side in a lot better shape then the way he got it, leaving a legacy of players who have belief in their abilities at the highest level of the game.
“It is good that people have felt that sort of response which we are pleased about, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we want to transfer than energy onto the field and that is the challenge for us in the year ahead.”
“It about tapping into that new energy that has perhaps come with the idea of somebody new arriving and the different environment created by them. If that is how they feel in Louth, then that is good and we want to build on that.”
“The main goal is to bring real belief into the players in Louth, that they can perform at the best level and that is a process that will take time. If we can do that leaving the players and the county itself in a better place, that is the ambition that we have over the next couple of years.”
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.