Tyrone boss Mickey Harte last night slammed critics of the Ulster senior football championship ahead of Sunday week’s Ulster final against Monaghan.
Some of the more vociferous critics claim that the introduction of the back door system has seriously devalued the Championship.
And others maintain that the stranglehold of both Tyrone and Armagh has impacted on the famous old competition.
“Some people try to write off the provincial championships as a spent force and claim they are no longer the force of old,” Harte said.
“In my book they are the greatest motivation possible for some teams who can’t really aspire to All Ireland success.
“And for those sides, there’s no greater incentive than to play in a their provincial decider.
“Those of us who can aspire to be in an All Ireland final still love being there and who doesn’t?
“I honestly don’t know where all this sad talk is coming from about people not liking provincial finals.
“Such games are a great incentive for counties to produce their best. You also have the back door system, so in a sense you have the best of both worlds.
“My only proviso is that the provincial champions should have a second chance as is the case for other counties in the qualifiers.
“That for me is the one big flaw in the championship system that we have at the moment.
“For example Dublin won the Leinster Championship five years in a row and there was never any second chance for them.”
Harte, with three All Irelands under his belt, was in sparkling form when he addressed the media at Eskra.
Totally relaxed and very much at ease, he expressed the opinion that Annual Congress might revisit what happens to provincial winners. He also revealed that Stephen O’Neill, injured against Down in the Ulster Championship, has a real fight on his hands to be ready to face Monaghan on Sunday week.
Errigal Ciaran’s Enda McGinley has returned to the county squad after injury, but there is a feeling that the Ulster decider might come a week or two too soon for him. Last summer Tyrone came unstuck against Cork in the All Ireland semi-final and there is a quiet mood of determination that the squad of 2010 means business. Harte appreciates that Monaghan are the form side, but you sense he’s as always relishing the challenge.
“We probably haven’t been as impressive in our two victories,” he said.
“But ultimately championship football isn’t about how it looks. It’s all about the end result.”