Just five days after being knocked out of the Ulster championship by Donegal, Harte yesterday came face to face with Donegal captain Michael Murphy at the launch of Eircom’s ‘Win, Lose or Draw’ prediction game.
While Murphy modestly downplayed his side’s strong start to the summer, Harte was typically upbeat and positive about the challenge of reviving his team’s All-Ireland title hopes.
In fact, the three-time All-Ireland winning manager offered a bullish prediction for the remainder of the summer, maintaining that the Red Hands will safely navigate all four rounds of the qualifiers and reach the quarter-finals in early August.
“I would not be in any doubt that we will make the last eight,” said Harte, who said he wasn’t worried about the qualifiers. “I don’t care what minefield it is. There’s no other show in town only being there (the last eight).
“Ultimately, there are two ways you can get into the last eight — you win your provincial title, which is the most direct route and probably the safest route, or you can go through the qualifiers which can throw up all sorts of challenges to you.
“But, ultimately, it’s about getting to the last eight. That’s the way the Championship has gone, it’s all about making the last eight. That’s everyone’s short-term or medium-term goal. Then, if you come there with momentum, you have belief in yourself that anything’s possible.
“I don’t see it as a lost cause. I see it as something that’s a challenge and we ought to take it on board and do the best we can.”
Harte revealed defender Dermot Carlin will miss their first-round qualifier after breaking his nose in a clash with Donegal’s Paddy McBrearty while Joe McMahon’s hip injury is under assessment.
What appears a definite is that goalkeeper Niall Morgan will remain between the sticks and on long range free-kick duty.
Morgan had a poor day against Donegal from placed balls after his excellence in the Allianz League final against Dublin though Harte claimed that, over the two games, his return was about average.
Harte also blamed referee Joe McQuillan for not preventing Donegal players from encroaching on Morgan’s kicks, a clear pre-planned tactic to affect the kicker.
“I would still be disappointed with the referees who don’t bother to deal with that,” said Harte.
“Like, if anyone stood right beside a man who was kicking out of his hands, it would be (brought) right forward, without a second of thought.
“What is the difference? Is this right or is this wrong? Can people stand too close to the ball or can they not? Is it difficult to judge between eight metres or 10 or 12 or 13? I don’t think it is.
“So I would be disappointed that people didn’t deal with that properly. What’s the rule? You can’t jump up and down or move when the kick is being taken. I’ve seen all of those things being done and there was no penalty for it.”
Asked if he was certain that Donegal’s players were illegally positioned, Harte’s response was emphatic.
“I do (believe that), on most occasions they were illegally positioned, yeah,” he replied.
Harte also had strong words for pundits who lay into inter-county managers. Neighbouring Armagh manager Paul Grimley was described as being out of his depth on the Sunday Game TV programme after losing to Cavan while, last weekend, the same programme gave ex-Sligo player Eamonn O’Hara a forum to call for manager Kevin Walsh’s resignation.
“What the people who are speaking about others should bear in mind is, are they being respectful?” said Harte. “Then they can say what they think but do it with respect. Then people will take it on board.
“But if they do it with this sort of utter contempt almost for the thoughts and feelings of others then it is not acceptable.
“After all, it is only an opinion that they have and they happen to be in a position to share it with a lot of people. Their opinion is quite often way off beam itself. Nobody pulls them to task.”