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Tyrone boss Harte urges GAA chiefs to scrap squad selection rule

 

By John Campbell

In a season during which he has had more than his share of injuries, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is making a plea for county team bosses to be granted more leniency in terms of confirming their match-day squads.

Ahead of what is the Red Hands' biggest game of the year to date against Donegal in an All-Ireland Super8s Group Two round three game at Ballybofey on Sunday, Harte is urging that the current format, whereby 26-man squads must be formally confirmed to a provincial Council or Croke Park as the case may be on the Thursday morning prior to a weekend game, should be relaxed.

With Cathal McCarron a definite non-starter and Ronan McNamee extremely doubtful for the trip to MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey, Harte is resigned to the possibility of being without two of his most experienced defenders.

But in taking a longer term view of what most managers consider is an unnecessary restrictive burden, Harte is appealing for a more flexible approach.

In the past the GAA shipped heavy criticism because some managers from time to time submitted what were dubbed as 'dummy' squads for important matches - in other words, the line-out that actually took the field bore only a passing resemblance to the list of players that had been formally confirmed, and thus the Association's hand was forced to call a halt to this.

Now, though, Harte believes that managers should be afforded a little more leeway given that the games tend to come thick and fast, injured players can be afforded a little extra time in which to recover and the media can preview games against the backdrop of more accurate information.

"I don't really agree with the idea that a manager should have to submit a 26-strong match-day squad," declares Harte.

"But it's the fact that you can't replace a player prior to the actual day of the match that is the real sticking point. I don't know how that rule ever got through.

"Quite often a club or county team can be hit by a bug immediately prior to a match and you could have four or five people coming down with something.

"Or maybe you could have a few injuries in the last couple of sessions immediately prior to a game and so are you expected to go into an important fixture with, say, 21 players rather than 26?

"I think this is a very harsh regulation to be enshrined in rule, and I honestly feel that it should be reviewed.

"I think the whole thing about teams being named and numbers being different has gone overboard and maybe it's time to change this as well.

"Maybe it's time to just list the players and then on the day of a game, supporters and others can fill in the relevant names of those who are actually playing on their programme. I think this would be no bad idea."

Meanwhile, Harte is focused on putting out his strongest possible side against Donegal.

If Ronan McNamee is ruled out, Padraig Hampsey could take over at full-back where he would be flanked by Hugh Pat McGeary and the impressive Michael McKernan, who has certainly revelled in the side this term.

Harte is likely to name an unchanged attack which means that Cathal McShane, Ritchie Donnelly and Connor McAliskey would once again form the full-forward line, with Peter Harte, Niall Sludden and Conor Meyler in the half-forward division.

Donegal manager Declan Bonner will be without two key men in Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Patrick McBrearty, but in the recent win over Roscommon there was further evidence that the north west side possess strength on the bench, something that they will certainly require on Sunday.

It promises to be an intriguing showdown.

Belfast Telegraph

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