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Mickey Harte and Liam O'Neill clear the air after black card row

By Colm Keys

GAA president Liam O'Neill and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte have cleared the air following a clash last month over the implementation of the black card in the football championship.

They met face-to-face in Croke Park yesterday for the first time since the spat erupted following Harte's criticisms of the inconsistent application of the black-card rule during the Tyrone-Down drawn Ulster championship game.

O'Neill responded on Ocean FM, stating that “in fairness to Mickey Harte, he doesn't leave much negativity out.”

Harmony was restored when the pair met at the launch of eircom's fan support initiative 'Your Shout Counts.'

“He referred to the fact that he didn't expect such a reaction to his remarks. He said: ‘We're both above that,' and I agreed that we were. That was the end of it,” said Harte.

However, he still has reservations about the implementation of the black -card rule, which has proved controversial in the early weeks of the championship.

“There doesn't appear to be a very definitive line on what is and isn't a black-card offence in terms of applying it. That's where the inconsistency comes in,” said Harte.

Pat McEnaney, head of the National Referees' Committee, said last weekend that referees had called 75pc of black-card offences correctly so far, but Harte believes the strike rates needs to be much higher.

“It's okay to talk about the 75pc that were right, but what about the 25pc that were not only wrong, but very obviously wrong,” he said.

“We're not talking about decisions that might go either way but clear-cut calls.

“Getting 75pc right isn't good enough, because these decisions can have such serious impact on games.”

Meanwhile, Armagh manager Paul Grimley suddenly finds himself confronted by more than a fired-up Cavan team as Sunday’s Ulster Championship quarter-final at the Athletic Grounds looms.

Not only is Grimley tasked with striving to avenge last year’s preliminary round humiliation at the hands of Terry Hyland’s side in Kingspan Breffni Park but he must do so against the backdrop of what he feels is a double snub which has been directed against his side.

As a result, a code of omerta now prevails within the Orchard County camp with players out of bounds to the media.

Grimley’s anger stems from what he feels was “huge disrespect” shown to his management back-up personnel Martin McQuillan and Peter McDonnell when they attended the recent Ulster Championship launch in Belfast and the perceived lack of response from the media to his team’s Open Day on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5 which also coincided with a charity fund-raising event in which his players were participating.

Even as he prepares to finalise his line-up to meet a Cavan side which has just been promoted to Division Two, Grimley clearly feels that Armagh have been victimised to some extent in terms of media coverage.

“When the Ulster Championship launch was held at which I was not present, the Armagh management personnel who were there were ignored while other team managers were interviewed,” recalls Grimley. “I thought that this showed huge disrespect to Peter McDonnell and Martin McQuillan. I have a big issue with this.”

And he is equally disenchanted by what he views as the media’s scant regard for his team’s Open Day on May 5.

“As far as I am aware the media were informed of what was to take place but there did not appear to be interest. I was disappointed with that. The players were there and obviously would have been more than willing to liaise with the media,” points out Grimley.

His team may have suffered relegation to Division Three but Grimley is determined to see the Orchard County rise again.

“Even when we endured difficult days, I was available to the media. It would have been easier to walk but I never shirked my responsibilities,” says Grimley.

“My focus is on getting a win on Sunday. The Armagh supporters deserve it and the players are committed to delivering.”

Belfast Telegraph

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