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Club fixture row a storm in a teacup, insists Mickey Harte

 

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has responded to criticism linking the Red Hands' recent pre-Championship training weekend away in Carton House to the postponement of club fixtures in the county.

Initially, the Tyrone county fixture planners had set aside Thursday, April 20 for a round of the All County Football League, but due to the protestations of Omagh St Enda's - who were unable to get players working out of the country to Ardboe for a midweek game - the ties were moved to the Sunday night.

"The games were to be on a Thursday night so we would be cleared to go away for the weekend," explained Harte.

"It was a storm in a teacup that one. The idea was to get away with the team and not to interfere with club football. It didn't interfere with the full rounds of the club league and in fact there will be six full rounds of the league before we play Derry in the Championship, which is quite a start for any county. And the players are available for all those games."

Harte can feel aggrieved that an issue was made, especially since Tyrone squeezed in a round of club fixtures a week after the county side's Ulster final win over Donegal last summer. Other county managers have succeeded in getting a lockdown over their players heading into an All-Ireland quarter-final.

Tyrone took their players away to Carton House from a Friday afternoon and yet they returned to play for their clubs on the Sunday evening, thereby curtailing the level of physical work they could conduct for fear of picking up injuries with their clubs in the lead-in to their Ulster Championship quarter-final against Derry in Celtic Park on May 28.

In recent weeks, Monaghan spent five nights away at the Browns Sports and Leisure Club in Vilamoura, Portugal as they gear up to face neighbours Fermanagh in the preliminary round on May 20.

Last month, Donegal spent a few days in New York as both a fundraiser and Championship preparation period.

Manager Rory Gallagher had to forgo the Under-21 contingent, who were facing Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final at that level, but they nonetheless enjoyed two stiff challenge matches against New York.

The Red Hands have never embarked upon a foreign training camp ahead of the Ulster Championship, with Harte reasoning: "I just try to think on behalf of the players and their families. I think it is a big ask to ask players to down tools, leave work, leave their families and go away to head off for that length of time.

"If we got a big decent weekend, from Friday to Sunday, I would be more than happy with that. I think we have lots of good facilities here and we don't need to go any further than that."

He added: "That's just my opinion and the way I look at it, other people decide to go other places. Obviously they get value out of that, but I have never asked that of our players over all the years I have been with them and I don't intend to do that either."

While Donegal partially used their trip to New York as an opportunity to fundraise, Harte is happy to leave that task as part of someone else's remit.

"I think that's a job for the people in Club Tyrone, who do a lot of good jobs like that. They have their eye on the ball for that kind of promotional opportunity and maybe in the off-season they could bring some players over for the season ahead," he said.

Meanwhile, RTÉ's list of scheduled Championship matches has been revealed. Eight of the nine Ulster Championship clashes will be broadcast live, the exception being Antrim's trip to Donegal on May 21.

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