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Brian McGuigan: Uncertainty over Mickey Harte future is bad for Tyrone

By Declan Bogue

Published 09/09/2016

Old pals: Brian McGuigan and Mickey Harte
Old pals: Brian McGuigan and Mickey Harte

Mickey Harte's future as Tyrone manager beyond the 2017 season was decided by club delegates and not the county executive as reported.

Earlier this week, the county executive - including county Chairperson Roisin Jordan - gave their approval to a proposal that Harte would be granted an extension to his current agreement that would bring him up to the end of 2018, leaving him with 28 years of unbroken service as a county manager through the minors, Under-21s and seniors.

However, another proposal was also tabled, asking if delegates would prefer to revisit the issue in 12 months' time. This was passed by a margin of 20-18, thereby rendering the extension meaningless.

This has not stopped some speculation suggesting that Harte's continued non-compliance with RTÉ lies at the heart of a stand-off between him and the county board.

Harte's former creative attacker Brian McGuigan told the Belfast Telegraph: "There is going to be talk about the RTÉ situation.

"It's one of those things where there will be no winners. Whether that is a motive behind the county board's actions, I don't know."

He went on to draw comparisons with the Kerry county board, who conducted their business with the minimum of fuss in granting manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice another spell in charge.

"When you look at the Kerry situation with Eamonn Fitzmaurice, when he looked for an extension there were no questions asked. A lot of people might have been questioning some of the decisions he made in the All-Ireland semi but without a doubt he got his extension and there was no problem with that," he said.

"Mickey is the most successful manager we have ever had, but there always seems to be issues hanging over him. It's not fair on the man himself and it needs to be resolved. It's a bad situation again for Tyrone football to be in, after a year in which Mickey has brought the players on so well."

While there was an expectation from team sponsors that a compromise would be reached between Tyrone and RTÉ, therefore exposing the sponsors to more screen time, this did not come to pass.

However, the sponsors are now believed to be satisfied with the situation as it now stands.

The shock vote on Tuesday was said to be further proof of a deteriorating relationship between Harte and the board, with Harte pushing for another season, negotiating from a position of strength after winning the Ulster title in July by defeating Donegal.

McGuigan believes that the success of the All-Ireland-winning 2015 Under-21 crop has turned heads.

"I think part of the problem is that with the successful managers we have had with the Under-21s, the big question of who is there to replace Mickey Harte, we do have the next team in place," he said.

"Maybe that has added a bit of pressure into the whole thing and people feel they need something fresh. Mickey has done a fantastic job over the past two years and two years ago, things did not look good for us. He has brought in so many players from the Under-21s and it is really hard to see where it ends."

Last year, Harte was in the final year of his contract, having been senior manager since the winter of 2002. The county board invited him for a chat and outlined three areas of concern; the non-co-operation with RTÉ, the size of the backroom team and player availability for clubs.

His future was decided by a vote, which he won convincingly - 52 in favour with three clubs, Dromore, Newtownstewart and Eglish, opposed.

Any chance of the Tyrone players slacking off with Harte in his final year would be stamped out, according to his former defender and multiple All-Ireland winner, Ryan McMenamin.

Drawing comparisons to how Manchester United slipped in the 2001-2002 season when Alex Ferguson announced he would retire - before reversing his decision - McMenamin states the culture in Tyrone is different.

He said: "No, definitely not. It would be no different than how they did it this year or the last year when they got to the semi-final."

Belfast Telegraph

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