Tyrone at low ebb
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte admits that he finds himself “in a place that I don’t really want to be” but the All Ireland winning boss is far from reaching for the panic button.
His observation that his team endured trial by television in their opening round National League defeat to Derry which resulted in Conor Gormley, Martin Penrose and Justin McMahon all missing last Sunday’s game against Mayo because of suspensions has already elicited a sharp response from GAA President Christy Cooney while the versatile Joe McMahon is currently in danger of missing the next game against Monaghan following the red card he incurred against the Connacht champions.
Harte insists that the older of the McMahon brothers was red-carded “in dubious circumstances” on Sunday and confirms Tyrone will appeal the decision.
Add to all this the fact that Tyrone are rooted at the basement of what is proving a hugely-competitive Division One with a particularly demanding March itinerary looming and it can be seen that Harte does not have his sorrows to seek.
But the pragmatic Red Hands boss believes that his team’s response to their difficulties could signpost a better way ahead for the remainder of the season.
“Obviously I am in a place where I don’t want to be but that is life.
“You have to go with what is in front of you. We have four very hard games looming on our radar next month and it’s how we cope with this challenge that may perhaps define our season,” says Harte.
With Gormley, Penrose and Justin McMahon certain to be available for the trip to Monaghan and with the experienced Ryan Mellon, Sean Cavanagh, Philip Jordan and Brian Dooher making what Harte describes as “steady progress” in their ongoing rehabilitations there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel.
His disenchantment with the manner in which the Central Competitions Control Committee invited referee Pat McEnaney to review some of the decisions he made in his team’s defeat by Derry which resulted in the yellow cards picked up by Gormley, Penrose and Justin McMahon being upgraded to red has already been widely articulated but now GAA President Cooney has responded robustly to Harte’s ‘trial by television’ claim.
“I do not believe that any county is being victimised in relation to the disciplinary process.
“If some counties more than others are seen to be engaged in televised matches, that’s perhaps because of their profile.
“But justice is applied evenly and fairly.
“The Central Competitions Control Committee has a job to do and it has to carry out its duties.
“We do not want to see suspensions imposed but at the same time we expect standards of discipline and sportsmanship to be observed,” declared Cooney.
In accepting that inter-county players in particular make big sacrifices in terms of time and effort to benefit the Association, Cooney nonetheless added: “The players have a big burden of responsibility in helping to make gaelic football a game that can be enjoyed.”
And he dismissed the notion that the CCCC had undermined the confidence of referee Pat McEnaney by inviting him to review his yellow card decisions in the Derry v Tyrone game.
“Pat has been probably the top referee in the country for some years now but he is a human being like all the rest of us.
“He does not have the opportunity to re-wind film during a game and assess his decisions.
“Maybe in retrospect he will feel that he might have picked up one or two incidents but this will not have any effect on his confidence,” stated Cooney.