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McGrath and Harte blast rule change imposed at Congress

By Declan Bogue

Two of Ulster's most respected managers have articulated their disgust at a change imposed from Saturday's GAA Congress held in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, about the naming of teams prior to Championship matches.

A motion insisting that inter-county panels have to be registered with the committee in charge by 9am on Thursday of that week got 52.2% of the vote. As it is a new rule and not an amendment to an existing rule, it did not require a two-thirds majority and so was enshrined immediately.

The penalty for breaking the rule will be a loss of sideline privileges for the county team manager, with a possible €1,000 fine, either in place or in addition to the manager punishment.

Pushed for his feelings on the matter on Sunday, Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath cited an example relating directly to his team following their Division Three win over Tipperary.

He explained: "Our sub goalie couldn't be here. On Friday night, his grandfather passed away. He had to attend the funeral, so if something like that happens, what do you do?

"I think it's very inflexible. I know some managers maybe put out some teams that bear no resemblance, there may be some kind of sanction or stipulation you can put out there, but if it's a case of having to make one change, then I think they have taken a sledgehammer to kill the fly, proverbially."

While McGrath acknowledged that "some managers did in recent times go to extreme lengths to try and hoodwink opposing managers" he also produced another theoretical scenario - "What if a guy contracts food poisoning? These things can happen.

"The presentation of games are important, but I think there is a human element, things can happen that we can't legislate for and there should be some wriggle room in exceptional circumstances that we can get over this."

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte had strong condemnation for the rule change, stating: "I just feel that that's just ridiculous. The people making these decisions are not actually on the ground having to face these things."

He also commented on the shortcomings of the rule in reality, saying: "I have often seen players who are named on a Thursday night and between then and the weekend they might have went over on their ankle.

"These things can happen and it's not really practical to make those pragmatic decisions. I think if as long as you have people named to a number on the programme, I can't see the problem with that."

He added: "Sometimes there are lots of things done that you might not think are entirely necessary, but I am not the one who does all that."

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