Sunday 30 April 2017

Harte hits back as managers end Carthy protest

DAMIAN LAWLOR

THE stand-off between several top managers and RTE surrounding the status of the national broadcaster's GAA correspondent and commentator Brian Carthy ended last night.

For the past week, the divisive saga dominated headlines and airwaves as seven leading inter-county managers withdrew their co-operation for match-day interviews with the station because they were unhappy that the long-serving broadcaster had fallen down the commentary pecking order for high-profile games.

Tyrone's Mickey Harte was the most vocal in his stance and others to back him were Kildare's Kieran McGeeney, Laois manager Justin McNulty, Kevin Walsh (Sligo), Mickey Moran (Leitrim), Brian Cody (Kilkenny) and Cork football boss Conor Counihan.

Moran was all set to refuse co-operation with RTE for Leitrim's Connacht semi-final clash with Roscommon today. The Leitrim County Board indicated to RTE that selectors Barney Breen and Martin McGowan could co-operate instead.

But the Sunday Independent can reveal that Moran will now agree to be interviewed by the state broadcaster after this afternoon's local derby. And the other seven managers will also follow suit and co-operate with RTE when they are next involved in the championship.

Harte said that the managers had decided to end the stand-off once they received a response from RTE on the issue. "There are a few things I want to clear up," he said. "For much of last week we have read nothing but easy-street and lazy journalism. People got an opinion, hopped on a bandwagon and basically ran with this notion that we were holding RTE over a barrel or holding them to ransom. That is absolutely so far off the mark.

"Did anyone bother to try to source the letter we sent RTE? Where does it say in the letter that we tried to tell RTE what to do? The strongest tone we used in that letter was that we 'respectfully requested' a chat with them so we could get our views on Brian across.

"From Michael O'Hehir to Micheál ó Muircheartaigh, there has been a history of wonderful commentators in RTE and they became the voices of the GAA. Brian was the latest, but he was absolutely nowhere to be seen for either of the football or hurling league finals and he wasn't working on the opening day of the championship with just one game on.

"People might say it's none of our business but as GAA people and managers who love the game we just didn't think that was good practice.

"There was no anger or ultimatum. We were concerned about it and so a group of us decided to do something about it. But in no way did we try to force RTE to do anything like what has been suggested in parts of the media. What actually upset us most is that we sent a letter, with those points in mind, to RTE on May 23 but didn't even get an acknowledgement -- never mind a reply -- until last Tuesday.

"After going more than a week without a reply we decided to do something about it and opted not to agree to interviews with RTE. It was a very informal thing, a discussion among friends.

"There was no question of us trying to lay down the law. I've had to listen to media people saying they wouldn't dream of telling me how to pick the Tyrone team but they are completely missing the point.

"We just wanted the opportunity to meet the RTE people and make a few points. It was a polite and respectful request.

"We took our action last weekend but RTE has since corresponded with us and though the response wasn't what we were hoping for, having received their letter we have decided to make ourselves available for interview again."

Longford manager Glenn Ryan's name was initially mentioned among the group of protesting managers, but he said last week that he was not involved in any remonstration. The Sunday Independent understands that a breakdown in communication led to his name being included.

Referring to the other seven who were behind the movement, Harte added that there was 100 per cent agreement to take the stance they did.

"If we had cast the net further we would have got plenty more support but this was just an informal decision among a group of friends. All we wanted was the opportunity to chat about our concerns or a response."

Carthy had no comment to make on the matter. He was on commentary duty at Wexford Park last night for the meeting of Wexford and Kilkenny and is at the meeting of Donegal and Cavan in the Ulster SFC today.

RTE issued a statement last week and will make no further comment on the subject.

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