JOHN FOGARTY: Did we miss the mark this year? Did we miss it in our game to date? I don’t think so

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte believes too much is made of the demands placed on inter-county players.

There is a serious amount of negativity around reporting and reflecting on gaelic games, writes John Fogarty from Dubai.

Mickey Harte fears the mark could turn Gaelic football into more of a stop-start affair and has questioned the need for it.

The Tyrone manager takes issue with how negative the game has been viewed in recent times.

While he doesn’t say the January 1 introduction of the rule is a symptom of that pervading analysis, he is worried what the effect it might have.

From next year, any player making a clean catch from a kick-out between the 45 metre lines will be able to call a free or choose to play on.

“Did we miss the mark this year?’ I don’t think we did. Did we miss it in our game to date? I don’t think so. I think it has the potential to be a stop-start affair in our game. If you’re introducing it with the key purpose in mind of increasing the instances of high fielding then you should not be able to take a mark at your chest or diving to take the ball — those should be ruled out.

“The only way you should be able to get a mark is if it’s clearly caught above your head and you’re off the ground but that’s hard to judge and it would be adding more difficulties for the referee.

“Even those boundaries that you have to be between the two ‘45s’ — what if you catch inside the ‘45’ but land outside it? Is it a mark? Is it a dubious thing?

It can add difficulty to the referee’s job, it can add controversy when you don’t need to but the biggest problem of all for me is that it may make the game more stop-start. Players will think: ‘If I catch this ball I can stop’.

“I don’t think that improves our game as a spectacle at all, so are you sacrificing fluency and continuity for one or two catches, which you can still make anyway without the mark?”

Harte questions the need to make rule changes when the game has a way of improving itself organically.

“I really do feel there is a serious amount of negativity around reporting and reflecting on Gaelic games. I think we need to take a step back.

“For example, they are not comparing like with like in terms of the quality of games we get sometimes. We never saw the games back in the day, we never saw anything on the television until the All-Ireland semi-finals and final. Even then, if you were to compare those games with modern day games, they are not the gold-dust that they appeared to be at the time.”

The scaremongering about the demands placed on players is also something Harte is keen to address.

“These are people who choose to do this and I do think that that (scaremongering) is much overplayed; that this is a chore and people don’t look forward to it. If that’s the case, I wonder why they go there. They should just stay at home. If they didn’t like going there then they should pick up a snooker cue or a tennis bat, go and do something else there is no pressure on.

“But they like to put themselves in those situations. This is the truth — I sometimes have to tell players to take it easy, to hold back. I never had that to do in the nineties! But there is a case now where I would say: ‘I don’t think you should train tonight, I think you have done enough.’

“You hold people back rather than push them on, so it doesn’t reflect people who are not enjoying what they are doing.”

Gaelic football lexicon does need to change though, says the three-time All-Ireland winning manager.

“The new way is functional movement, what used to be called strength and conditioning, or ‘game preparation movement’ is the language now, which I think is more accurate. ‘Strength and conditioning’ has the connotation that we want to bulk them up into power-men, whereas it’s about flexibility and their ability to do things well in every fashion.”

As for Tyrone’s decision in September not to accede to Harte’s request for an extra season in charge to the end of 2018, he smiled wryly: “I am happy in what I am doing. If it turns out that somebody believes it is not good enough, well, that’s their choice. I wouldn’t be shouting from the rooftops about it.

“Obviously, you would be annoyed if you felt you were doing your best and somebody else didn’t think it was good enough, that’s fair enough. But I think that there is a great group of players here at the minute, they have good confidence in each other and I think that we will work together for some time.”

He denied the board’s reluctance had anything to do with sponsors’ unrest at Harte and his players’ continuing stand-off with RTÉ.

“That’s a myth. The sponsors have never spoken directly about this being an issue. That’s just stuff that gets into the grapevine, people repeat it and it becomes the truth. It’s not the truth. It’s nothing to do with the sponsors or any particular stance that may or may not be taken.

“It sounds like a reason but it is really not at all.”


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