Mickey Harte: Louth commitment as good as any county, says Harte ahead of Antrim opener

Harte on Tyrone reunions, work ethic and Louth ambitions

Louth manager Mickey Harte has been impressed by his players' hard work ethic since becoming boss in November.

Harte was named Louth boss after an 18-year spell with Tyrone, where he won three All-Ireland titles.

Antrim, managed by former Tyrone player Enda McGinley, travel to Dundalk in the county's Division Four opener on Saturday.

"The commitment, drive and effort they put in is just as good as any county," said Harte on his players.

Louth were relegated to the lowest tier last season but Harte says he is "very happy with things to date".

As well as representing Louth for the first time, Saturday's opener will see a reunion between Harte and McGinley, along with former Tyrone All-Star Stephen O'Neill, who is on Antrim coaching staff.

"It will be different, that's for sure. I spent a lot of years on that sideline with a Tyrone top on and I enjoyed every one of them," Harte told Sportsound Extra Time on BBC Radio Ulster.

"It will be a chance to line up against Enda and Stevie O'Neill, two lads who I knew very well from the minors right through. It has been good for Antrim to get their services."

Harte added that he felt having high-profile managers in Division Four would enhance the reputation of football's lowest tier.

"I think it is good for the Division that we find ourselves in it," he said.

"It will add some extra interest in it, which is good because people in the lower Divisions don't often get the credit they deserve.

"Unless you are in Division One you want to move up the ranks. In Division Four you want to strive to get to a new level and it's no different in Louth."

Harte backs two-tier All-Ireland and return of fans

Louth are in the Leinster championship alongside all-conquering six-in-a-row All-Ireland winners Dublin and Harte says he thinks the two-tier championship "is worth working on".

The second tier of the All-Ireland championship was scheduled to start last year but the arrival of Covid-19 meant a condensed football championship run off in the autumn and winter. It was confirmed in April it will not take place in 2021 ahead of another compacted season.

"As long as there is an incentive to get back into the mainstream championship, then there is a great interest in the teams who find themselves in that position," said Harte.

"This is a fluid situation. Some teams are there now who haven't been there in the past, but I think the leagues give teams a good idea of where they are at in the context of their development at this point in time.

"I think a second championship could do that as well, with the proviso that there is the incentive to get to a higher level of the championship through that grade."

Harte will be reunited with former players Stephen O'Neill (pictured) and Enda McGinley.
Harte will be reunited with former players Stephen O'Neill (pictured) and Enda McGinley.

Harte added he is "not in the business of telling people what to do" but said he would like to see spectators allowed back at GAA matches.

"I think it would be good for everybody to get back to games again," said the 69-year-old.

"Life is good when you can go and live life to the full. We don't like isolation, we are community people and I think it has been difficult for people along the way.

"It is a safe environment, out in the open air and we have been social distancing. I think many people would be happier in themselves and in their communities."

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