All-Ireland quarter-finals: Mickey Harte 'hugely disappointed' as Derry's season peters out with Kerry loss in Croke Park (2024)

All-Ireland quarter-finals: Mickey Harte 'hugely disappointed' as Derry's season peters out with Kerry loss in Croke Park (1)Image source, Inpho

Orla Bannon

BBC Sport NI at Croke Park

  • Published

In the end, a season that had promised so much for Derry fizzled out in puzzling fashion and left manager Mickey Harte trying to come to terms with the speed of the decline.

Three months ago, Derry were jubilant in Croke Park after beating Dublin in the Allianz League Division One final and were strongly fancied as All-Ireland contenders.

Yet here was the Derry manager, back in Croke Park, trying to make sense of a tumultuous championship in the wake of a forgettable five-point defeat by Kerry in Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final.

"We did intend to be back for a few more games here, at least one and maybe two, and that's not happening which is very disappointing because it is a long time to the beginning of the new season," said Harte.

"It looks so far away now for everyone involved but that's life and sport."

Kerry may have delivered the decisive knockout blow, but Derry's demise in recent weeks has been a slow and painful one with three losses in a row to Donegal, Galway and Armagh.

While they clung on to survival with unconvincing wins over Westmeath and Mayo, they never regained the swagger of the spring. Why?

"It was a challenge to get back to the level that we had in the league," said Harte.

"I suppose the nature of the defeats was the big thing, it wasn’t just that we were beaten, we were beaten badly by Donegal and Armagh and we had a crazy battle with Galway in terms of losing a man and all of that."

Image source, Inpho

Drab contest concludes quarter-final weekend

This was expected to be the game of the weekend, though Galway's heroic one-point over outgoing champions Dublin took top prize by a long way.

Instead the 47,406 crowd were subjected to a really poor spectacle with Kerry, coming in cold after a lack of proper tests thus far, pedestrian and laborious.

Yet they still had enough in the tank to dispose of a lethargic Derry side playing in their third game in 15 days.

Harte insisted he "couldn't say for certain" if the extra-time played in beating Mayo last week was a factor in his side's low energy levels.

"I thought that confidence was very much back after the result against Mayo, but we were meeting an established team who are no strangers to All-Ireland quarter-finals, semi-finals, and winning them," he said.

"We had a tough battle out there today and I felt that we did well up to the 60-minute mark or so keeping in touch.

"When you consider we held David Clifford and Sean O'Shea to a meagre return for their standard (0-6 between them) you would have thought we had a reasonable chance.

"I suppose we weren't efficient enough, clinical enough ourselves. It is not hard to guess ten points won't win too many games in Croke Park."

Image source, Inpho

Harte disappointed but still optimistic

Mickey Harte winters well and by that, I don't mean he piles on the pounds in the off season.

By his own admission, he says he is "able to leave things down" and switch off from football and focus on other things for a few months.

Whether he gets the opportunity to steer Derry through 2025 remains to be seen, but he will always have regrets about 2024.

"Hugely disappointed and will be, and forever there will be a degree of disappointment in the days that you lose and believe you could do better," he added.

"So, yes, I’ll always be disappointed about that result and that outcome but pretty much an optimistic person and [I'll] look ahead.

"The past can’t be changed, we can try and do something different for the future, but I take life on a day to day basis like that."

'Not a game for the purists' admits O'Connor

Image source, Inpho

Jack O'Connor has won four All-Irelands with Kerry, the first way back 20 years ago in his first spell in charge.

There's very little he doesn't know about winning big games in Croke Park and this one went the way he thought it would.

"Probably wasn’t a game for the purists because it was defensive, but we were happy to play the game on whatever terms we came across," said the Kerry boss.

"Derry set the terms early on. They got a rake of men back and made it tough for us to find space but I thought we started to find pockets in the second half and just showed a bit more intensity and a bit more energy."

They will play Armagh in two weeks time in the first championship fixture between the sides since the 2006 All-Ireland quarter-final, won by Kerry when Jack O'Connor was manager and Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney was his county's captain.

So have Derry hardened Kerry up for what they will face next day out?

"For today, that’s a good test. We know we will face a bigger test in two weeks' time," said O'Connor.

"Remember Armagh beat Derry comprehensively a month or so ago. We will be under no illusions about the magnitude of what we are facing in two weeks time."

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All-Ireland quarter-finals: Mickey Harte 'hugely disappointed' as Derry's season peters out with Kerry loss in Croke Park (2024)
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