Mickey Harte has expressed concern over the quality of the Croke Park playing surface ahead of tomorrow’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Armagh.
Players frequently experienced difficulty in keeping their feet on certain sections of the pitch during last weekend’s games over Saturday and Sunday. Part of the pitch had been re-laid just days earlier, following a U2 concert.
“It seems to be that there was excessive slipping from players than you wouldn’t normally expect,” said the Tyrone boss.
“So we have to say, is there something there that’s making this happen?”
However, Harte is hoping all the necessary remedial work will be carried out to ensure the surface is in perfect condition for the Ulster derby, the first championship meeting of the Red Hands and their neighbours since the 2005 All-Ireland semi-final.
“I’m sure that the people who deal with that aspect of the stadium will be viewing this as well, and they will be observing and reflecting on that and, if there’s something untoward happening there, then I think they will be able to deal with that.
So they’ll probably learn if the pitch is up to the standard it needs to be to play our games, it’s because something else has happened there.
“Generally, everything about Croke Park is top class, and I’m sure that if enough people are seeing something that doesn’t seem to be right, then people will investigate that.”
Tyrone came off second best in the last championship meeting of the sides, losing out in a bruising and controversial qualifier at Healy Park in 2014.
However, their treble All-Ireland winning manager feels his team has grown in experience, quality and wisdom since then, and will be ready for anything Kieran McGeeney’s men can throw at them.
“We have matured over those years, we have developed, we have good young players who have come in, who have been successful at other levels to a very high degree. I think we would need to be better than we were then, but results since have proved that we are on an upward curve and I hope that continues,” said Harte.
He has a fully-fit squad to choose from for tomorrow’s eliminator at a sold-out Croke Park, and he also refused to rule out a return for attacker Connor McAliskey at some stage of this summer’s championship. The Clonoe man underwent surgery for a ruptured cruciate ligament in January, but Harte revealed he has made remarkable progress in his recovery, and that his return to training has proven an inspiration for the rest of the squad.
“I haven’t got the crystal ball, but I know he’s making serious progress, and I think he’s to be admired for it, and I think he’s a great influence to the rest of the players, because he has been so positive about something that could really have put him in a bad place. The work he has put in is admirable all year. He’s really working so hard, and he’s back doing everything that he possibly can.
“He’s a great lad around the place, he’s just got that upbeat spirit. I’m not surprised that he’s in the place that he’s in, because in January he got a cruciate [rupture] and most people said, don’t even think about him again at all for the rest of the year, and here he is in the middle of the boys, doing everything he can, except he’s really not allowed to be in full contact yet.”
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