Spillane highlights huge Mickey Harte influence on Derry footballers

Spillane highlights huge Mickey Harte influence on Derry footballers

Former Kerry footballer Pat Spillane has claimed that Mickey Harte's ability to get the best out of the Derry team cannot be understated this year, but he still backs Dublin to come out on top in the Sam Maguire race in 2024.

Last month's Allianz National Football League final between the sides ended 3-18 to 2-21, a draw. After extra time, Derry went on to win 3-1 on penalties.

Many see Derry as the next-best team in the country, behind Dublin. However, some will look at Derry's pulsating win over Dublin last weekend as a huge statement when it comes to who lifts the Sam Maguire Cup this year.

However, Spillane, who knows a thing or two about winning All-Ireland's, believes that Derry's win puts them firmly as the second-best team in the country. The Kerry great also recognises the excellent job Mickey Harte has done since arriving at the county.

"I now rate Derry at number two behind Dublin," he said in his Sunday World column

"Mickey Harte’s influence cannot be overstated. They played with belief, confidence, and on their terms, which enabled them to go after the dubs.

"The highlights included quick transition play, intense tackling, scrambled defence, excellent spread of scorers, dominance at midfield, a successful long kick-out strategy, and another demonstration of the scoring threat of their defenders.

"Half of the 16 goals they scored in the league came from players who were wearing jerseys numbered two to seven."

Spillane also makes the case for Dublin being the best team in the country because they lost the Allianz National Football League final without eight of their first team players, and for Derry, it became a mammoth task to overcome.

He believes that Derry exposed Dublin's Achilles heel, but in doing so, they also made the task of toppling them again even harder.

"Perhaps the most startling stat from the game was the 61 percent possession Derry had in the second half. I don’t ever recall Dublin having so little ball in the second half of a national final in the last decade.

"Derry are now real All-Ireland contenders, but here’s a reality check for them: they didn’t win the game in either normal or extra-time. They were at full strength, whereas Dublin were without eight of the starting 2023 All-Ireland final team."

"Derry left four goalscoring chances behind and lost a four-point lead on three occasions in the second half, but the good news for everyone is they exposed Dublin’s vulnerabilities. The bad news is that they have poked the bear."

He also went on to say that a penalty shootout loss isn't classified as a defeat and that Dublin's old guard will rebalance the scales this year.

"I don’t count a penalty shoot-out loss as a defeat.

"This setback is akin to the shock they received when Donegal ambushed them in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.

"In the championship, they will get the balance better, their defence will be more watertight, and once leaders like Stephen Cluxton and James McCarthy return, they will still be the team to beat. No need for panic yet."