Former Tyrone senior footballer Sean Cavanagh has likened his old manager Mickey Harte's move to Derry to that of Alex Ferguson hypothetically moving to Manchester City.
This week, Harte left Louth to join Derry on a three-year term. Harte's move to the Ulster county has ignited a significant debate in GAA circles about his loyalties and hunger to win another All-Ireland.
One man who knows Harte all too well from his time with Tyrone is former captain and player, Cavanagh. The now 40-year-old former player was under the management of Harte for many years, and the pair helped the inter-county win three All-Ireland titles in the first decade of the 2000s.
Cavanagh retired in 2017, but Harte remained in charge until his departure in 2020.
The Omagh native, writing in his column for the Irish Daily Star this week, compared Harte's move to Derry to that of a former Manchester United manager moving to their cross-town rivals, Manchester City, a scenario that never happened.
"It’s like the thought of Peter Canavan playing for Derry. The thought of Mickey Harte having a Derry crest on his chest is very strange. Maybe the world is changing, and I’m being left behind," he said.
"Mickey wasn’t always a fan of Tyrone people coaching outside of Tyrone. I am not sure I would be happy wearing an Armagh crest, a Derry crest, or a Donegal crest.
"Growing up, I was always taught Derry were Tyrone’s biggest rivals. It was always, ‘Keep an eye on Derry.’ They were one of the best teams in Ulster at that time. It was, ‘Forget about Armagh, forget about Donegal, forget about Fermanagh.’
"This is a bit like if Alex Ferguson went to manage Manchester City after 26 years with Manchester United."
Harte, one of the coolest customers in Gaelic football, will now be tasked with making Derry All-Ireland contenders for the upcoming season.
The Tyrone legend believes that despite the ever-changing styles in Gaelic football, Harte won't deviate from the systems and coaching that made him a household name in football.
"It’s a question of whether Mickey’s style of play will be enough to get Derry to the next stage," he said. "He won’t change it. Mickey doesn’t change. Anyone who knows Mickey knows that," he added.
"That style has evolved from 2013 when our Tyrone team somewhat copied what Jim McGuinness did in Donegal at the time. It’s counter-attacking football - nothing more or less.
"You are going to have your 13 or 14 behind the ball, and guys are going to have to play on the break.
"That will definitely take Derry so far with the quality they have.
"It’s Sam or nothing. It’s admirable for whatever age Mickey is, 69, I think.
"I suspect Derry was looking at the ‘02 team Mickey took over in Tyrone. At that point, we were primed for success as well. Derry will be hoping for that winning mentality Harte brought to Tyrone in 2003."