Big game ref has to get major calls right: Harte
The identity of the referee who is appointed to officiate the forthcoming clash of All-Ireland champions Donegal and Tyrone on Sunday May 26 will be revealed within the next 24 hours.
Whoever it is, he will be sure to come under serious scrutiny as the build-up continues.
And whoever does take up the whistle will be reminded that in last year's tussle Donegal had an equal number of yellow cards to Tyrone on four – with Colm McFadden sent-off late in the game on a second yellow card for preventing Tyrone from taking a '45'.
Yet the glaring statistic from the game was that Donegal conceded 28 free-kicks to Tyrone's 14.
Reporters questioned Mickey Harte at the end of that game about the free count, but he chose to keep his thoughts to himself, only briefly mentioning the ongoing problem with consistency among referees.
Harte touched on the same theme when asked if the appointment of this game will have a significant bearing on the result when he said: "A decision one way or another can be the winning or losing of a game, so it is very important. All we ask for is the referee to be as consistent as he possibly and humanly can. If he does that, then nobody can argue."
While Donegal manager Jim McGuinness (pictured) delivered his annual report to the county board and explained their attitude to the National league campaign that saw them relegated, Harte pointed to the positives that Tyrone got out of their first year back in the top flight, after a two-year hiatus.
"When you come into Division One you cannot take your foot off the pedal any day," said Harte.
"Every day is a challenge and in many ways every game is a knockout me
ntality. If you don't play with that mentality – especially if you are coming back up from Division Two as we were – then you begin to get into a bad place.
"I think that has been the most beneficial thing for us, that we managed to do that and introduce a number of new players along the way who got valuable experience at a very high level."
Within Donegal, question marks are hanging over 2012 Player of the Year Karl Lacey's involvement, having just recently returned to full training following a hip operation in December.
Mark McHugh is also believed to be struggling with a hamstring problem, but a general air of mystique surrounds Donegal.
While they have promised to bring different elements to their play, the task of second-guessing them appears to be a critical factor in what may unfold later this month.
Harte feels that they may have already left a few clues behind them in their league performances.
"They had to play their league matches in the open domain the way everybody else had and there is footage there to see how they were doing," he said.
"Again, you might say that's not a true reflection of what we are going to see in Ballybofey, but you only have to look back at last year's games and you get a fair idea of what they are capable of. I'm sure those capabilities haven't gone or left them.
"They are very capable of reaching that again and I am sure they will bring something new to it as well, because they did from 2011-12; they brought a lot of new things to their game in terms of their offensive strategy, which wasn't as prevalent in 2011. It was very prevalent to their win in 2012."
He added, "I'm sure they will bring some added value to what they had. We know what they are very good at, I'm sure they will be able to do that again, and I'm sure there will be a couple of surprises as well."
Turning back to his own side, Harte answered the curiosity of if Tyrone will try and bring something unseen to the tie when he continued: "We are actually playing a very fluid game all year, we are not in a fixed mode.
"We have different players on different days produce their best form and there's a flexibility within the squad."
Hinting that the use of substitutes could be a crucial factor, he said: "People talk about a settled team or a fixed team and all this. It may suit some squads to have that.
"Equally, it may suit some squads that are developing to have that degree of interchange. In the modern game, 70 minutes is a big ask of many players – it's nice to have other players can go in and acquit themselves well, even though it's for the last 20 minutes."