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Peter Canavan: Strange tale of the unwanted men

By Peter Canavan

Published 09/09/2016

Unclear future: Mickey Harte, pictured celebrating with grandson Michael after winning the Ulster title, is in limbo
Unclear future: Mickey Harte, pictured celebrating with grandson Michael after winning the Ulster title, is in limbo

Just a week and a half before the All-Ireland football final and all the recent news has been about the future of managers - either being kept on, standing down or being told where to go when looking for a contract extension.

It's as if someone - probably some county board official with a clipboard - decided to stick up a 'Managers Unwanted Here' sign.

I don't know if Tyrone boss Mickey Harte feels unwanted, but the way he has been treated is totally unwarranted. To turn down a request for an extension of just one year to Mickey's term smacks of a decision in which internal politics are very much at play.

Remember, this is a man who has brought 19 trophies to Tyrone in 13 years and presided over a team that suffered one defeat in 18 games this year - and that one loss was by a single point.

If the team were in decline, you could say something, but all the signs this year were extremely encouraging and it's clear that Tyrone are going in one direction and that's upward. Most people outside the county are completely baffled and so they should be.

The great irony is that when he looked for his current two-year extension 12 months ago, there were elements within the Tyrone county board hierarchy who wanted rid of him. But when it came to the vote back then, only three clubs were against him.

On Tuesday night, it was the executive of the county board who, already having approved it, recommended that Mickey be granted a further one-year extension but the clubs narrowly voted against the proposal.

It is my understanding that the clubs decided to have all county team managements - including minors and U21s - reviewed at the end of next summer. That's their prerogative and I don't think it will deter Mickey in the slightest when it comes to planning for next year. If anything, it will probably motivate him further for next year and his players too.

There has been speculation suggesting that the Tyrone manager's ongoing refusal to talk to RTÉ lies at the heart of this latest episode.

It's no secret in Tyrone that the county board's top brass are not happy with the non-compliance with the national broadcaster.

Apparently, there was an expectation from team sponsors that a compromise would be reached but the players have decided to stand full square with Mickey on this issue.

So I don't see how this could come into the equation. It shouldn't when deciding the future of Tyrone football.

Events in Roscommon are equally puzzling. How sorry it must be for supporters to witness a team management which oversaw such a tremendous league campaign fall apart in what appears acrimonious circumstances.

However, it was clear from the way Roscommon changed their system of play mid-season - from an open, attacking style to a sweeper in defence - that there was a split in the camp.

Still, it was disconcerting to read in the resignation statement from joint manager Fergal O'Donnell and his fellow selectors, David Casey and Stephen Bohan, that a "concerted effort has been made (outside of management and players) to undermine and disparage us."

As three proud Roscommon men, I'm sure that none of them took this action lightly and that would suggest people outside the camp are exerting undue influence.

Whatever happens now, the people who run the Roscommon county board must ensure that any "outside" force cannot undermine the incoming management.

My own take is that Roscommon should act quickly, re-appoint Kevin McStay and put on record their full support for him.

Having spent a year working with the players, McStay should have a better knowledge of them and how to get the most out of them - it would be foolish to let him go too.

In Kerry, meanwhile, they have yet again gone about their business with the minimum of fuss and re-appointed Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

Further proof from the county with the most All-Ireland crowns that discretion is the better part of valour.

Belfast Telegraph

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