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I'm just a Tyrone fan who is living the dream, says Peter Harte

 

By Declan Bogue ·

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Second chance: Peter Harte is adamant that Tyrone will do themselves justice against Dublin this time around

Just like his uncle Mickey, there is no doubting that football for Peter Harte is something he doesn't just dip in and out of. More like he stews in football juices every minute of the day.

And his downtime reflects that. Peter is engaged to Aine Canavan, a Tyrone and Errigal Ciaran ladies footballer, a doctor, and also daughter of Peter.

For an impressionable youngster from Errigal Ciaran, Peter Canavan is a deity. "Just a hero to anyone who grew up close to here," states Harte.

The admiration for his future father-in-law flows as he explains: "I don't think you had to be from Errigal (Ciaran) to be a massive Peter Canavan fan.

"I remember during an Ulster club run half of Tyrone was at Errigal games because Peter was such a big draw and people wanted to see him play.

"Now he'd have the odd bit of advice for you but he leaves most of it to Mickey and Horse (Gavin Devlin) and how they want you to play."

For a time when Peter Harte was growing up, the Errigal Ciaran grounds in Dunmoyle was a huge draw. Neutral fans would travel from as far away as Fermanagh and Derry to witness Peter Canavan performing superhuman feats on the club scene. No footballer had been a draw like that since the crowds that visited Ardboe to see Frank McGuigan play, but nobody since.

The young Harte took such things for granted.

"Davy and Mark Harte and Eoin Gormley and people were playing so there was a lot of class footballers and cousins and relations who were playing and it was just a club thing for us," he says.

"Maybe for people outside they were coming to see Peter but for us we wanted to see our club playing. They were an excellent team."

If ever a player was born into this life it is Peter Harte. A teacher in the Convent in Donaghmore and in his prime at 28, his family connections are cast-iron.

Everyone knows about Mickey of course, and of cousins Mark and Davy who won All-Ireland medals in the last decade. But Peter is also named after his grandfather and had an uncle of the same name who served as Ulster Council President of the GAA from 1980 to 1983.

Steeped in it, but also lucky enough to grow up in a glorious period for Tyrone football.

"The first one, probably for any Tyrone fan, is the one that sticks out the most," he refers to the first All-Ireland triumph in 2003.

"Me and my best friend were up in the Cusack Stand, and then running down the steps and running out onto the field.

"For any Tyrone fan, you'll never forget that. Probably just the happiness and emotions, and going back that night to meet the team and all the rest. Going to Aughnacloy and Omagh, they're just things you'll never forget.

"And then the last one, 2008, we were involved in the minor final so we were part of the day anyway but we had our game before it. Just Tyrone winning again - you were in dreamland. You got one, you thought that was it. But to get two and then three was just unbelievable."

As soon as he was out of minors, he was being touted as the next big thing in Tyrone football. By the start of the 2010 campaign, his uncle had him in the senior squad.

"For me, I was like a fan basically coming in, because my first night training I was kicking the ball to Brian McGuigan and Stephen O'Neill and it was a dream."

Those that knew their football realised that he was something special. But it is doubly difficult for a player to establish themselves on a county team that is picked by a relation, Mark Harte suffering unfairly for this by dropping out of county football when he certainly had plenty to offer.

Peter spotted the signs as soon as he came in.

Peter spotted the signs as soon as he came in.

"I think, at the time, Collie Cavanagh was getting a lot of flak from Tyrone supporters about, you know, 'He was only on because (of the brother)' … and he's maybe the best player in Ireland.

"It's one of those things I never let get too much in on me because you just have to have trust in yourself … and I'm happy if Mickey thinks I'm good enough."

The first few weeks though took some getting used to. A few years previously, he was coming in that dressing room with an autograph book.

"The Doohers. Big Packy (Pascal McConnell), JD (John Devine). Jesus, you could go through the whole team nearly - Mugsy, all them boys," he smiles.

"These are just your heroes. So it was class to come in.

"But, in the first year, we won Ulster and you kind of thought 'This is just the way it's going to be; just win games' and whatever. But, very quickly, that all changed and football moved on really quickly and the Dublins and Donegals brought the whole conditioning, they brought football to a new level.

"And for the boys who had all won All-Irelands, at that stage they were all either thinking about retiring or maybe just didn't have the motivation because they did it all before. That's probably what happened then, that Tyrone had that transitional period where we weren't as successful."

A few weeks ago, he led the revival against Monaghan that pulled them clear. At the fourth time of asking, he had won an All-Ireland semi-final.

The year before was the most harrowing of defeats, 12 points in it to Sunday's final opponents Dublin.

He will tell you now in all honestly that far from dwelling on it, football has a great way of pulling you into the next match.

"County seasons are funny because when they end, they end abruptly and we in Tyrone had club championship a week or two later and your full focus is on that," he explains.

"It's nearly as though you park it. Throughout the year we've probably taken bits and pieces from it."

The biggest bit will be that they need to hit the ground running.

Get caught flat-footed like last year and it will be all over before they know it.

"The game will take on a life of its own but the big challenge will be, when it does, we don't let it go the one way," he adds.

"That was the most disappointing thing last year, the game went away from us and there was no chance of getting it back. That's the big challenge, that we don't let that happen."

He just wants it so badly.

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Second chance: Peter Harte is adamant that Tyrone will do themselves justice against Dublin this time around