Mickey Harte calls for rule on matchday squads to be ditched
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has slammed the current ruling which dictates that managers must submit a 26-strong matchday squad in advance of inter-county fixtures.
Harte, who will be missing at least seven of his players for Saturday's Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final against Armagh because they are required for Ulster University's clash with IT Tralee on Sunday, believes that this imposes additional pressures on team bosses.
With a number of players having returned to his squad, Harte's selection options have been enhanced but he makes no secret of his desire to have his UU players on board.
"Yes, it is good that we have a lot of players challenging for places in the team and in making the matchday panel but I don't like the idea of 26-strong matchday panels at all," declares Harte.
"I think we should be able to pick from all those players who are fit and available. What's the big deal? When you are selecting players and then have to tell them that although they have trained hard and are good footballers, you can't even allow them to put on a jersey and have any chance of playing as things stand.
"So I don't think that this is good. I think this should apply to any match, too."
Harte's views are likely to be endorsed by many of his managerial counterparts, a number of whom have faced selection dilemmas this year.
The 26-strong matchday team sheets must be furnished three days in advance of games and many managers contend that a lot can happen in that period in terms of players being injured or becoming unavailable.
Over the course of 2018 a number of team bosses were forced to omit players from their matchday squads who had made considerable progress when it came to confirming their panels for important championship games simply because they could not be accommodated within their 26-strong matchday unit.
Nor does Harte's dissatisfaction with rules governing the staging of games and the actual playing of games themselves end there.
He is keenly awaiting the outcome of Saturday's Central Council meeting at which it is anticipated that at least some of the new playing rules which have been trialled in the early-season tournaments in all four provinces will be scrapped.
Even before the rules were put into practice, Harte had expressed his misgivings on the hand pass rule in particular and these have now been shared by many managers and players.
"I don't see any need for these new rules at all," maintains Harte.
"First of all, to bring in five different rules at the same time was far too much. Experimenting with them in non-event games does not give you a great read as to how they might play out in major competitions.
"We are only in the pre-season subsidiary competitions now and they are not playing out well in these. Obviously the main focus has been on the hand pass because it is the one that is the most frustrating and most noticeable.
"The others are not as prevalent in determining the outcome of a game.
"Did anybody in their right mind think that after a third hand pass a player would boot the ball straight down the field in the hope that a colleague would gain possession? Players in the modern game are not like that. They are not gamblers with possession.
"There was not a lot of thought in relation to the referees when these new rules were brought in. And this was done before what I would call a proper period of consultation was completed. It seemed to be a case of never mind the players or the coaches or anybody else."
And Harte makes it clear that the additional burden which has been placed on referees because of the new rules is making their role particularly uncomfortable.
"It is not surprising that the referees are keeping quiet in public about it but privately they are not enamoured with the rules at all," insists Harte.
"Obviously they don't want to incur the wrath of those who might want to give them good games. So they keep a low profile but the truth of the matter is that those to whom I have been speaking to are not happy with the rules."
Harte also maintains that county team managers were only made aware of the rules and asked for their views on them after they had been formally sanctioned by Central Council at its meeting in late November.
"Would I feel that I should have contributed to that? Not at all. We were only asked did we strongly agree or disagree and all this kind of nonsense over a matter about which you were never even asked about in the first place," states Harte.
"It had already been agreed and passed and become legislated for by then. I did not see any other correspondence before these rules were brought into force."
Interestingly, the McKenna Cup final is expected to be starting just a short period after Saturday's Central Council meeting at which the impact of the new rules will be assessed ends.
And this has already led to an interesting poser - will the new rules still be in force for the McKenna Cup final irrespective of what the outcome of Saturday's debate will be?
Meetings of Central Council tend to pass unnoticed but on this occasion it is safe to assume that there will be a considerable focus on what happens off the field.