Donegal manager Declan Bonner has sympathised with Mickey Harte’s annoyance at the ongoing talk about Tyrone’s system.
Donegal travel to Tyrone on Saturday night for a crunch Allianz League clash at Healy Park, with both battling for Division 1 survival.
The game comes just two weeks after Donegal got the upper hand on the Red Hands in the McKenna Cup final. That win for Donegal ended Tyrone’s quest to land a seventh successive McKenna Cup title.
After the game, Harte fumed at BBC reporter Mark Sidebottom, who asked about Tyrone’s tactics and referenced the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final loss to Dublin.
“I wish people would just look at our games in the totality of our championship performances last year and then, perhaps, they might view things through a different lens – I hope,” Harte said.
“The rest of them were very different to the one against Dublin and were very effective for us. We won every game by a hatful.
“You’re like the rest of them – you’re deciding on one game, the whole of our season. Please look at the whole season and then tell us that we’re doing an awful lot wrong.”
Harte, who has returned Tyrone to Ulster’s summit in the last two summers, has found something of an unlikely ally in Donegal boss Bonner.
“Tyrone have been one of the most consistent teams and Mickey has a right to feel aggrieved about the negative talk around his system,” Bonner said.
“The night we played Dublin in the League, they had a lot of men behind the ball. That’s part and parcel of the modern game, but Tyrone have played a system that has got them over the line in Ulster and got them big scores.
“Mickey is a shrewd operator. They have Colm Cavanagh back in and have a lot of experience with men like Ronan McNamee, Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte.
“They’re a strong outfit and have set the benchmark in Ulster.”
While Donegal – who earned a first League win of 2018 on Sunday against Kildare – got the better of Tyrone in the McKenna Cup final, Bonner expects a much different proposition this weekend.
“It will be intense, but that’s what we expect from games against Tyrone,” Bonner said.
“The McKenna Cup was there for us. Both teams saw an opportunity to look at other players and I doubt very much if it will be as open this weekend.
“It was a nice evening in Armagh and both teams went at it. It will be more tactical this weekend. Omagh isn’t an easy place to get a result and we’ll need a big performance.”