From a commentary position in Pairc Tailteann in Cavan, BBC’s Mark Sidebottom believed that something seismic was about to happen.
Just eight weeks ago, Tyrone – having been dumped out of the Ulster Championship by Monaghan – were staring at the end of their year; and perhaps, as Sidebottom alluded to, the end of an era.
Meath led Tyrone by a point with six minutes of injury time played in a qualifier and Andy McEntee’s men stood poised to hand Tyrone their coats.
Sidebottom was calling the action for BBC and dared to look into the crystal ball.
Harte, he observed, was ‘seconds from his P45’.
But, then, the great escape happened. Cathal McShane arched over the levelling point to draw the game and, in extra time, a Harry Loughran goal saw Tyrone eke out a 2-14 to 0-19 win.
Harte is the great survivor.
Ten years ago, there were calls for his head in June when Down defeated Tyrone in the Ulster Championship. That September, Harte guided Tyrone to Sam Maguire – their third under his watch.
He was first appointed as Red Hands manager for the 2003 campaign – when he oversaw the first arrival of Sam to the county.
“This is his 16th year.., Jesus!” was Declan Bonner’s reaction to the longevity of the Tyrone chief.
“Mickey has done a brilliant job. A lot of older guys have moved on and new ones have come in and stepped up to the mark for Tyrone. We have introduced a lot of young lads too. A lot of the older generation of players have gone. But the game is no less. It’s huge.
“Mickey has been around the block now and he has achieved everything there is to achieve in the game as a manager.
“You have to hand it to Mickey. Management at this level is 24/7. It takes over your whole existence. Mickey just keeps coming back. He keeps reinventing the wheel. People write him off in there, but he has been brilliant for Tyrone.”
Bonner’s Donegal stand in Harte’s way of a place in an All-Ireland semi-final when the two meet in Ballybofey on Sunday.
Bonner has been impressed by what he’s seen in recent weeks from Tyrone.
He said: “They are well organised and they attack well.
“People are on about them being a defensive side, but no, they break in numbers, and they have been shooting up big scores against Cork and Roscommon.
“They are dangerous and they have some very good players, and they are a well-drilled team.
“They are going to be a difficult, difficult side to break down, and it’s going to be a huge task.”
Donegal tipped the scales against Tyrone in 2011 with an Ulster SFC semi-final win but Tyrone have won the last two Championship encounters – the 2016 Ulster final and 2017 Ulster semi-final.
Bonner is in no doubt about the challenge that is awaiting his men in MacCumhaill Park.
He said: “We will need our best performance of the season to get the win.”Tags: