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Mickey Harte's media stance starting to cause tension

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is immersed in preparations for his team's vital Allianz League Division One match against Dublin on Saturday but as well as pursuing what he views as two precious points, he also finds himself coming under scrutiny in the sphere of media relations.

Since taking over as Red Hands boss in late 2002, Harte has set a new template in terms of accessibility, informed comment and courtesy in relation to communications.

But at a protracted meeting of the county board this week, it is understood that Tyrone's current relationship with one particular element of the broadcast media was raised and queried.

With a lucrative sponsorship deal from McAleer and Rushe already tabled, the superb Garvaghey Centre of Excellence a constant hive of activity, a storied backroom team at U21 level just unveiled and St Patrick's Academy Dungannon through to the MacRory Cup final, it's not difficult to pinpoint the positives in the O'Neill county.

Yet Harte's insistence, and he's justifiably entitled to do so, that only one player be made available for interview after matches this year - Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte are among those who have very capably fulfilled this role - allied to the team's lack of consistency in the league to date have apparently triggered a hint of frustration.

A source close to the county board revealed last night: "Negotiations are ongoing in an effort to resolve what is a delicate issue. This being the case, we don't want it in any way to deflect from what is a massive match for our team on Saturday.

"You need to be at your very best for a match like this and we feel that the players will be ready."

No one is more conscious of this than Harte himself. When contemplating his team's fixture itinerary at the outset of the league, he singled out one mission in particular.

"We have to travel to Dublin but any day you go to Croke Park is a good day," declared the Red Hands boss. "We always enjoy playing there because of the challenge it offers us."

Yet while both he and his team will be up for what is a vital contest, Harte would surely like to be approaching it from a rather more comfortable backdrop.

His team have acquired three points from a possible six, the most recent of these coming via a fortuitous draw against Derry.

Their task at Headquarters will be rendered all the more difficult given that Dublin will be breathing fire after what they clearly felt was an over-physical approach by Kerry in Killarney last Sunday - an approach that ultimately saw the Kingdom pocket both points.

Nor did Dublin boss Jim Galvin mince his words in decrying aspects of Kerry's display - something that will undoubtedly add fuel to the fire on Saturday.

Conor Clarke is still not fully fit for the Red Hands while it remains to be seen if Mattie Donnelly is played at centre-half-back or centre-half-forward.

Perhaps the shining light in the Tyrone side to date this year has been Padraig McNulty.

The Dungannon Clarkes player was given a chance in January and since then he has blossomed into a quality player, his work-rate, ball-winning and penchant for scoring making him a rare find.

Belfast Telegraph

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