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Harte denies having any influence over controversial move to narrow Omagh pitch

Denial: Mickey Harte said he didn’t request pitch alterations
Denial: Mickey Harte said he didn’t request pitch alterations
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte denied he had any influence over the dimensions of the Healy Park pitch, after his side's loss to Dublin on Saturday night.

The sidelines were moved in earlier in the week while relaying work was going on, with the suggestion from some quarters that Tyrone were attempting to deny Dublin their usual dimensions for their attack.

"This narrowing of the pitch is nothing to do with me at all. That was a request from SKY TV, that they would like more clearance at the side for all their technology," the Red Hands boss said.

"The Omagh cub asked me would I be OK with that, I said 'that's fine, work away.' There are people reading too much into that. A conspiracy theory, but it was nothing to do with that, it was a practical matter."

The sidelines seemed to be a matter of great fascination for Dublin players and mentors prior to the game, some players choosing to get their sightlines from the perimeter, while two Dublin selectors did a full lap of the pitch, pacing it out.

There is no doubt it had some effect on the match, with Stephen Cluxton's kickouts struggling in the final quarter of the game, but Dublin manager Jim Gavin denied that was the case.

Asked if the narrow pitch affected them, he answered: "No. Forwards maybe were closer to the goal."

Pressed on the kickouts that went over the sidelines, he simply responded: "No."

Gavin was on safer ground when appraising their progress, becoming the first side to qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals through the Super 8's series.

"Two games down in the All Ireland quarter final round robin series and we have four points on the board and that is satisfying. It was a great experience, we enjoyed it and the guys were really looking forward to it all week and they weren't let down by the crowd," he said.

As much as Tyrone put up something of a challenge, Red Hands manager Mickey Harte struggled to put the worth on it, in the context of having to go to Ballybofey and needing at least a point from Donegal to progress in a fortnight's time.

"If we go and perform well in Ballybofey and get a result there, then we can say this was a great match for us, in preparation for that. But, that has to be done yet so until we arrive in Ballybofey and arrive out of it with a result, then we won't be able to say much about that," he added.

Elsewhere, the sense of occasion was all around Omagh on Saturday. If this is what the Super8s can bring to the towns fortunate to host them, then it will add a splash to any summer as fans mingled on Main Street, Tyrone and Dublin fans taking turns to serenade each other and beachballs flying in the air, and a chat show featuring Ryan McMenamin and Mossy Quinn.

There were some angry scenes however at the corner of the Gortin Road terrace before the game. Dublin season ticket holders were unhappy at being put on the terraces rather than getting a seat in the main stand, leading to some unpleasant exchanges of views.

Tyrone need at least a draw in Ballybofey in a fortnight's time to book their place in the semi-final, Harte adding: "It is a very difficult place to go and they have a huge record up there, haven't been beaten in so many years.

"But you know what? I am glad we have the chance to go because any other year we would be waiting on the McKenna Cup now."

Belfast Telegraph


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