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I have grave reservations about GAA's new rules, admits Harte

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is relishing the prospect of seeing his team bid to regain the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup which they held custody of for six years before surrendering it to Donegal this year.

But while Harte's competitive juices are flowing again, he admits that he is burdened by apprehension because of the new playing rules which will come into force for the first competition of 2019.

A long-time advocate of a 'no change' policy in terms of the rules, Harte is disturbed by what he feels are unnecessary amendments to the game as it stands.

"I have grave reservations about the new rules," declared Harte. "I have been speaking to some referees who officiate at a high level and they are very concerned about them.

"I think if you begin to anticipate some of the things that referees will need to be looking out for, then they would need to have a computer in their heads to cope with it all."

Harte, indeed, believes that referees are already under considerable pressure without the added burden of trying to oversee the implementation of the new rules.

"Referees are already overworked as it is and I think it would be enough if the new rules were to be trialled in the early-season competitions in the four provinces because this would provide the basis for a reflective view of where we are at," he said.

"I really don't think these rules are necessary and there are too many of them to be introduced at the one time."

With the GPA and many leading players having already expressed reservations about the rules, GAA chiefs are coming under increasing pressure to review the implementation of the new rules at the first opportunity.

And Harte's fears in relation to the deployment of the rules in the Allianz League followed by their possible removal for the Championship will strike a chord just about everywhere.

"I think this would be totally impractical because all the preparations that the teams will go through for the league which will incorporate familiarity with the rules will ultimately be of no value when the Championship comes round," said Harte.

"If you have got to switch back into a whole different mode again it would not be the easiest thing to do. Maybe the way in which you were playing and the strategy which you were using because of these other rules will mean that things will have to be changed for the Championship and that's not sensible."

The Red Hands boss has observed reaction to the introduction to the rules in numerous quarters recently and this has led him to a startling conclusion.

"I think there is a certain amount of hysteria out there about this game of ours," insisted Harte. "This may not apply in all quarters but the quarters in which it is prevalent become very loud indeed. We have soundbite stuff rather than thoughtful comment.

"It's a pity it is the case that certain interpreters - call them what you will - keep on rabbiting about things until they think it becomes the truth. Well, I don't think it's the truth at all.

"If you speak continuously about something in a certain way then people can come to think that this must be right. But I think we need to be more discerning than that and we need to step outside that soundbite philosophy we get from a lot of people who consider themselves authorities on how our game is played.

"It would maybe be better to take a step back and see the positives within our game. If you do have access to the media and you keep saying things it does have an impact and that's the truth of the matter."

When the team groupings were made for the competition, Tyrone were bracketed with Fermanagh, Derry and UUJ in Group C and this should offer Harte's side a lively start to the year.

In Group A two new managers, Paddy Tally (Down) and Mickey Graham (Cavan), will go head to head for the first time with Donegal and Queen's the other two sides in the group.

Group B will see Antrim, Monaghan, Armagh, and St Mary's do battle for the right to book a semi-final place.

The first round of games will take place on December 30 with the final scheduled for the end of January.

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Groups: Group A: Donegal, Cavan, Down, Queen's. Group B: Antrim, Monaghan, Armagh, St Mary's. Group C: Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry UUJ.

Semi-finals: Winner Group A v Winner Group B. Winner Group C v Best Runner-Up.

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