Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Provincial champions’ plea being taken to Harte

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte’s ongoing plea for provincial football champions to be given a second bite at the All Ireland cherry via the qualifiers, has gained huge support following an analysis of this year’s overall championship results.

While the provincial and All Ireland series provided some stunning encounters one stark statistic is currently providing considerable food for thought for GAA chiefs . . . not one of the eight teams who competed in the four provincial deciders made it past the All Ireland quarter-finals stage.

Indeed, Sligo, Limerick, Monaghan and Louth all bowed out of the qualifiers six days after losing their provincial deciders, thus lending weight to the belief that such teams should be afforded a 13-day respite before going into championship action again.

But it’s the fact that all four provincial champions Roscommon (Connacht), Kerry (Munster), Tyrone (Ulster) and Meath (Leinster) all lost in their respective All Ireland quarter-finals — their next outing after their provincial triumphs — and immediately exited the championship that is a sticking point with Harte and many of his managerial colleagues.

Earlier this year, the Croke Park authorities indicated that to afford the provincial champions the safety net of the All Ireland qualifiers would further congest the fixture list.

But this notion has already been firmly rubbished by many managers and players who quite rightly point out that there is adequate time in August to accommodate such fixtures.

Harte, for one, makes no bones about his ongoing desire to see what he feels as a burning issue addressed.

“I think that the provincial champions are, in a sense, being discriminated against.

“Everyone else gets another crack at the championship but they go out.

“To some extent this takes the taste of winning a provincial title.”

“I honestly think that the sooner provision is made for the provincial champions to be given a second chance the fairer it will all be,” says Harte.

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