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Red Hands still have smiles on their faces, says Harte


Joy division: Mickey Harte is sure players get enjoyment from game
Joy division: Mickey Harte is sure players get enjoyment from game
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has launched a verbal broadside on those who would maintain that excessive demands are currently being placed on inter-county players.

And the Red Hands boss robustly refutes suggestions that they no longer derive enjoyment from their involvement in the sport at this particular level.

"You hear it said that players are slaves to the game at county level but I don't think this is true at all," insists Harte.

"I think players are what they want to be. I believe there is too much made of the perception that there is no joy or no fun in the game any longer.

"There is total joy and total fun in Gaelic football at this level. These players dedicate their lives to this and if they did not choose football they would be doing something else.

"You would find that they would be doing 5k forest runs or half marathons or something else. They would certainly dedicate themselves to something that would drive them and help them to challenge themselves to be the best they can be."

The belief that more players than usual have become disillusioned with the pressures associated with inter-county football has been articulated on several fronts in advance of the Championship, but Harte answers this in typically emphatic fashion.

"There is not one person I know who has to be driven to training or forced into it," he raps.

"They don't have to be put out through the door to training by their wife or anyone else. Nor are managers getting them through the dressing-room door and saying to them 'suffer this tonight'."

Harte concedes that the widespread talk on this issue has the potential to allow it to morph into reality but he is adamant that this will not be the case.

"Unfortunately, it is a case that if something is said often enough some people will tend to believe that there is some element of truth in it. It is often uttered that there is no joy left in Gaelic football, that's the talk that is out there," he says.

"The suggestion is made on an ongoing basis that players are slaves to systems but I don't believe that at all," Harte adds.

Harte has also revealed that Mark Bradley will now play no part in the forthcoming Ulster Championship.

Bradley indicated at the start of this year that he was stepping away from the Red Hands panel but there had been a belief that he might return in time for the Championship opener against Derry in Omagh on May 12.

Harte, though, has ended all speculation on this front.

"Mark made his decision early in the year. He was going to study in London and he knew himself that it would be very difficult to come back, not having been training with us, and get up to the pace that is required at Championship level," he says.

"I think he might have designs on the States too but I can't say that for sure.

"Maybe this is his last chance to travel as he is going to be working after this and maybe if he wants to do that trip then this is the time to do it.

"He's taking this year from county football maybe to have the chance to do that. But you never say never.

"If a person is young enough they might come back in and regain the form that is needed and be able to give the commitment that is required."

But Harte certainly has not closed the door on Bradley nor indeed any other player who might wish to revive their inter-county career.

Kyle Coney returned to the side earlier this year having been out last term and has made a big impact in attack.

"Going away does not say that a player is gone forever," points out Harte.

"If he makes a decision that what he's doing is the best thing for him and then makes another decision that he would like to be in the framework again then that's good."

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