Posted by Mickey Harte

Kerry and Tyrone have built up an intense rivalry since the turn of the century and the combined talent of both counties makes a formidable-looking side

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It was a very disappointing end to a promising season for us. The most important thing for us earlier in the year was to gain promotion, which we did. And up until the final against Kildare it looked as if we could compete at a high level.

Unfortunately injuries took their toll and some players who were in great form during the league dipped a bit. That combination left our squad depleted and deprived us of that vital energy we needed at a key point in the season.

The draw pitting us against Kerry in Killarney when they were coming off the back of a poor performance was the toughest draw of all for us. We just have to make sure that we’re more competitive next season and we’ll certainly endeavour to do that.

After the final whistle, as I made my way toward the dressing room, lots and lots of Kerry supporters wanted to get autographs and it was a bit flattering for me to think that Kerry supporters would want my autograph.  I stopped and did as many as I could but I had to get back to my team and unfortunately I couldn’t give them all the time I would’ve liked.

I really wanted to get back to the team, though, because it was our last game of the season. There were lots of people waiting around when we got out of the dressing room and were on our way to the bus and it was a nice gesture from them.

It shows the respect that exists in the GAA world. Even when teams are archrivals on the field after all’s said and done there’s a great friendship within our association. Long may that continue.

In the spirit of that kinship and the rivalry that has developed between the counties over the years — and knowing full well the debate it could spark — we asked Mickey if he would pick a composite Tyrone/Kerry team of the first decade of this century. Of course, he obliged and his selection is below.

This was quite a task and, like everything, a team such as this one is a matter of opinion. To try to pick such a team, you know you’re going to leave some very good players out of it. There are so many marquee names there in the mix but I gave it a shot in any case.

Goalkeeper: Pascal McConnell (Tyrone)

Packie is my choice at number one. People may raise an eyebrow that he didn’t get an All Star but he has been such a consistent player over the past decade. John Devine has been a great stalwart for us, too, and was the man in goals in 2003 but Packie was back in 2005. Unfortunately, John missed out again in 2008 due to the death of his father and Packie came in and had a wonderful game.

So Packie has played in two finals but people outside of Tyrone wouldn’t understand the competitive edge that existed between those two players. Normally in the goalkeeping positions there is the number one who’s there all the time and the second choice gets in when there is an injury. That was never the case in Tyrone where Packie and John were always vying for the number one position. That spurred them on but, conversely, it cost both the chance to be known as a household name nationwide.

Packie just tips the balance for what he’s done over the years. He came up through my underage teams as well so I’ve spent a lot of time with him since 1998 and I just know the quality that he possesses. Kerry people might have different ideas and Diarmuid Murphy waited a long time behind Declan O’Keefe for his chance before proving himself to be a top keeper.

Full-back line: Marc Ó’Sé (Kerry); Mike McCarthy (Kerry); Conor Gormley (Tyrone)

Looking at this team, I would just love to have it. No one could dispute that Marc Ó’Sé has been the best corner-back over the last decade. Beside him I’ve chosen Mike McCarthy. Having said that, though, had the late Cormac McAnallen still been with us I would be confident that he would be filling the number three spot. Unfortunately, he was only with us for the 2003 final but I would like to acknowledge him in this selection. I have no doubt he would have occupied that position over the last decade and he was a huge loss to us, to Tyrone football and, of course, to his family.

McCarthy was a really competitive full-back who could play centre-back as well and he was a real footballing defender.

On the other side I have Conor Gormley. He played half-back for us in ’03 and has been all around the defence. He has been the man to mark marquee forwards and by and large has done that very well for us over the last decade. He’s famous for that block against Steven McDonnell in 2003 which will be remembered as an iconic piece of GAA action forever.

Half-back line: Tomás Ó’Sé (Kerry); Seamus Moynihan (Kerry); Philip Jordan (Kerry)

Tomás Ó’Sé has owned this position in Kerry for a long time and when you own a position in Kerry you’ve got something about you. He has the ability to go forward with real power and the precision to kick points at pace.

At centre-half back I picked Seamus Moynihan. He was a quality, footballing defender with great energy and enthusiasm.  For his size he was a great fielder of the ball and he was always capable of making those powerful, purposeful runs forward.

On the left I’ve gone for Philip. He never missed a senior championship game from the time he started playing for Tyrone and that record will probably remain unequalled. It is an amazing feat. He was a player who covered brilliantly at the back but was always a threat going forward.

I think that’s quite a defence and I don’t think Packie would have to worry much about saves with that six in front of him.

Midfield: Darragh Ó’Sé (Kerry); Seán Cavanagh (Tyrone)

These two almost pick themselves. Darragh Ó’Sé was a fantastic player and has the All Stars and the All-Irelands to prove it. He was a man who could field the ball over anybody and if Kerry were in trouble he would always pull off a catch or two that would turn the game. He was a powerful man on the field and took no prisoners.

Alonside him I have to pick Seán who got three All Stars from the middle of the field. He’s an adaptable player who can go forward as well and there is a good balance there with Seán attacking and Darragh sitting back and defending.

Seán’s an extremely capable footballer, brilliant at taking scores and if only he hadn’t been injured this year things could have worked out very differently for us.

Half-forward line: Brian Dooher (Tyrone); Brian McGuigan (Tyrone); Paul Galvin (Kerry)

From a Tyrone perspective, you couldn’t put out a team without Brian Dooher. His loss to us was incalculable and I always knew it would be. It wasn’t just his work-rate; it was the intelligent nature of it. He didn’t get on the ball by accident; he got on it by design. He was prepared to work hard to be in the right place but then was very clever to pick up the bits and pieces. He was an exceptional player and would make anybody’s team.

At centre-half forward there is a big debate and some people would say Declan O’Sullivan should be there. Maybe there’s a bit of bias but I’ve seen Brian come through from minor and under-21 and I’ve seen what he’s done for us over the years. He has a quality second to none and his ability to make space for himself, his vision on the ball and his sheer guile really shows you what we lost when he was sent off in the wrong last Saturday.

We lost a serious competitor who could have unlocked the Kerry defence because that’s what he has been doing all his football life. In the latter stages of his career he lost none of that guile and came back from a broken leg and a bad injury to be a vital player for us in the 2008 final when he came in and helped us over the finish line. There is no way I’d leave him out of a team of the last decade.

At left-half forward is Paul Galvin who in many ways became Kerry’s very own Brian Dooher. He continues to play that role and has a lot of the same traits that Brian has (and a lot that he doesn’t have!) He is a quality player who always gets on the ball and supplies it inside to make things happen for Kerry.

Full-forward line: Colm Cooper (Kerry); Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone); Peter Canavan (Tyrone)

Who wouldn’t want this full-forward line? I think it’s as good an inside line as was ever named on any team. The Gooch in the corner still continues to do it and we’ve been talking about him so long you’d think he was ten years older. He’s such a class act: his ability to lose his marker; his ability to dummy people when even if they know it is coming they still can’t do anything about it; and the ability he has developed on his right foot when he was predominantly left-sided when he was younger. He continues to deliver for Kerry and if they need a score he’s always the go-to man.

I’ll put Stephen O’Neill at full-forward. I’ve had him through minor and under-21 and he has produced some of the most unbelievable scores that you could imagine. Again he was a player who was very left-footed as a youngster but he worked on his right foot to the extent that he was scoring points from as acute an angle on the right side as he was on the left. It’s always great when a player  has the dedication to develop their game in such a way.

Physically he’s very strong and he took a number of penalties for us in high-pressure situations. Even though players knew which side he was going to put the ball there was nothing they could do to stop it because he’s so confident in his own ability and skill. He came on in the ’03 final whenever Peter Canavan came off and seamlessly slotted into the team and made a huge difference for us. He put a new challenge in front of Kerry that day after they had been tuned in to the threat Peter posed.

And, of course, who else could I pick in the other corner only Peter. I don’t think there would have been a team named over the course of his career without him in it if it was an option. All the things I’ve said about the Gooch, about Brian McGuigan and about Stephen O’Neill could be said about Peter.

He had the vision, the ability to go left or right and he had steel in his game. He also had immense composure under pressure. That was evident in the goal he scored in 2005 and I don’t know who else could have scored it. It had to be good to beat Murphy and he had the composure to trickle the ball into the net when any kind of a ferocious shot would have been saved.

Then there is the free-kick he took against Armagh that put us into that final. I don’t know too many players with the nerves of steel to put that ball over in the bar in that situation and given what it meant to the county. And he took so many other important kicks for Tyrone. I’ve no problem at all putting him in this side.

Substitutes

Of course there are so many other players in contention. I’ve already mentioned Declan O’Sullivan but you have to ask who you’d leave out for him.

Ryan McMenamin gave a lot of quality to Tyrone over the years while, up front, Dara Ó’Cinnéide would also be in contention for a spot. He’ll have to be content with a place on the bench here.

Tom O’Sullivan was a great stalwart at the back also for Kerry over the years. Mugsy for us in the corner was that flamboyant finisher and Joe McMahon, who came through from 2005 on, was a serious player, too.

And then there’s Kevin Hughes who missed out in 2005 but then made such a significant contribution in our ’08 victory.

All those guys are in the mix but, overall, I think the names of the first 15 on the sheet would take a lot of beating.