All-Ireland minor final defeat to Cork 47 years ago created a burning desire inside Mickey Harte

September 19, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

DESPITE SHARING 52 senior provincial titles between them, Cork and Tyrone have met infrequently in championship football over the years. 

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This weekend’s encounter will be just their fourth clash in the All-Ireland SFC, following previous meetings in 2018, 2009 and 1973.

The counties have also faced-off in two All-Ireland minor deciders – in 2010 and 1972. 

The 2010 final, when overwhelming favourites Tyrone survived a late Cork blitz to prevail by a point, featured a number of players who will be involved Saturday evening at Croke Park.

Hugh Pat McGeary, Niall Sludden and Richie Donnelly were part of the winning side, while Cork’s team that day included John O’Rourke, Brian Hurley and Luke Connolly.

Niall Sludden and Padraig McNulty celebrate at the final whistle of the 2010 All-Ireland minor final.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Red Hand boss Mickey Harte first crossed paths with the Rebels back in 1972, when he lined out at full-forward in the minor final. 

It was a 17-year-old Harte’s first taste of action in Croke Park, a venue he’d go on to enjoy considerable success at over the years.

Following their Ulster final defeat of Cavan, Harte grabbed 1-3 in the nine-point All-Ireland semi-final win over Meath to seal Tyrone’s first final at the grade since 1948.

He wore number 14 against Cork, who had a prodigious talent at the opposite end of the field in Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

Long before he simply went by the moniker JBM, the St Finbarr’s club man was a dual prospect who helped Cork reach both the All-Ireland hurling and football finals the previous September.

Barry-Murphy bagged just a point in Cork’s 2-8 to 0-11 semi-final win against Galway, but he was far more clinical in the final as the underdogs enjoyed a deserved 3-11 to 2-11 victory.

Newspaper reports following the game described Cork’s three-point winning margin as flattering on Tyrone. 

Harte managed to grab an early goal to fire Tyrone into a 1-5 to 0-5 lead after 25 minutes.

Tyrone legend Frank McGuigan in 1984.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It was brilliantly set-up by the star of the show Frank McGuigan. Wearing a pair of white boots – extremely unusual at the time – Tyrone’s skipper McGuigan dominated the proceedings from centre-field. 

Such was the extent of his control on the game, the following Monday’s Irish Independent match report wondered how the Ulster champions would have fared had McGuigan been more selfish in front of goal.

“McGuigan won virtually every ball he contested in the air, his leaping and catching being of the classic mould, and, his distribution was of pin-point accuracy,” Mitchel Cogley wrote.

“He was the instigator of nearly every Tyrone score, and his own three points were so perfectly taken that one wondered if it might have paid his team better had he been less unselfish and shot more often, rather than place colleagues who proved, in the main, so much less accurate.”

The Irish Examiner’s reporter Michael Ellard said the “fair-haired” McGuigan “gave Tyrone a complete monopoly of the midfield proceedings and linked up magnificently with his eager heavier forwards”.

Barry-Murphy put the Tyrone defence to the sword with a tally of 2-1. He struck for his opening green flag 30 seconds before half-time, which left the sides deadlocked at 1-6 apiece at the interval. 

During the second period, Barry-Murphy rounded two defenders and set-up Liam Good for a simple finish, before dispatching a spot-kick into the corner in the 57th minute.

“It was the kiss of death for Tyrone,” Ellard stated.

Former Cork player and manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Harte finished with 1-1 and McGuigan set-up a late consolation goal for Mick Quinn, but it wasn’t enough to deny the Munster side. 

“They filled the cup of victory to overflowing proportions in restoring Cork’s tarnished footballing pride and sending Tyrone back north in a disenchanted mood,” Ellard said.  

The majority of that Tyrone side were underage again the following year and they would go on to claim the Tom Markham Cup with a convincing win over Kildare. But Harte agonisingly missed out on the win in 1973 as he was overage.

After receiving a call-up to the seniors that year he opted out of the panel to focus on his studies and his role as captain of the Omagh VS team in the McRory Cup.

His school were defeated in the final of the prestigious second-level competition and he watched from the stands as the Red Hand claimed their first Ulster SFC victory since 1957 that summer. 

The defeat to Cork in 1972 would have a lasting impact on Harte. It created a burning desire inside him to win the All-Ireland minor crown. He had to wait 26 years for eventually lifting the cup as manager of Tyrone minors in 1998.

Tyrone minors celebrate their All-Ireland win in 1998.

Source: INPHO

Incidentally, Frank McGuigan’s son Brian was a key player for the Red Hand against Laois that day, which arrived a year after they’d lost the final to the same opposition.

“It really stuck with him,” Brian McGuigan recalled last year.

“He always threw it up to us, saying he lost that final in ’72 and this (the 1998 final) was his chance to redeem himself.”

“The only ambition I had at the time was to win the Tom Markham Cup,” Harte said in 2005.

“I never thought beyond that. I’d played in 1972 when we lost to Cork 3-11 to 2-11. I’d have regretted it for the rest of my life. I determined that one day the Tom Markham Cup would sit in my house.

“It took to 1998 to get it and I was very fortunate that the county board stuck with me during those years when there weren’t any titles coming back.”

He’ll come full circle against the Rebels at HQ this weekend. But these days, Harte’s obsession is ending the 11-year wait without the Sam Maguire. 

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