Thursday 27 July 2017

Mickey Harte: 'I have not met anyone who does not enjoy playing for Tyrone'

Boss insists elite players still play for the love of the game

Mickey Harte, pictured at yesterday’s launch of the GAA Healthy Clubs initiative, insists inter-county players set their own standards. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Mickey Harte, pictured at yesterday’s launch of the GAA Healthy Clubs initiative, insists inter-county players set their own standards. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Last week the GAA, in conjunction with the GPA and ESRI, launched a research project aimed at helping inter-county players better manage their personal and professional lives.

The inference was that with all the time they dedicate to their sport, they were perhaps falling down in other areas.

That has been a recurring theme in recent years. The general consensus is that demands on elite hurlers and footballers are at an all-time high - and that's not one that Mickey Harte disagrees with. But he insists that one simple truth remains. Players play because they love the game.

"Some people would have us believe that they don't enjoy what they are doing, or that it is a chore for them," Harte said. "I have not yet met anyone who does not enjoy playing for Tyrone, and I think there are very few county footballers who do not enjoy what they are doing.

"In fact, they set the standards for themselves. They are the most demanding people on their own time, their own commitment. Why would anyone partake in what they are doing, to the level of it, if they didn't enjoy it?"

Harte went on to explain that some of his players need to be told to do less training.

"In fact, in recent times, I have had to tell people to stop training, I never had to do that before in my life. People are doing too much and they don't understand the value of recovery, and you have to hold them back."

Harte went on to explain why he believes inter-county managers as an easy target when it comes to apportioning blame, pointing out that his players are available to their clubs for all but four league matches.

"There are lots of things thrown at county managers, that they are power brokers and that they want too much power. If it's thrown out often enough it can become a truth for some people. I don't see that as the case.

"People are always talking about the club and county conflict. They are talking as if county players get no club football and their clubs have no access to them.

"I can speak for Tyrone only with conviction: there are 15 league games, four of them are starred games which means that county players are not available. They are available for all of the other league games and they are available for all championship games.

"Our clubs are not being starved of their county players. But some people would have you believe that there are county players and they are not getting two games with their clubs all year and maybe not getting games with their county so their careers are lost that year.

"That may happen in some isolated cases, it may happen in some counties from time to time, but it's not the norm, it's the exception. So why do we take these exceptions and hold them up as the norm?"

Harte's latest Tyrone vintage look well placed to make a major assault on All-Ireland honours this year. Last year's Ulster final win in particular suggested that Harte might be ready for a fourth coming, even though star attacker Conor McAliskey will miss the season with a cruciate injury.

"We can't speculate about anything more than I think we are capable of doing things to a very high level," Harte replied, when asked if his team was ready to claim the All-Ireland title.

"If we can play to a high level and have the rub of the green and are in a position to seize some luck if it falls our way then anything is possible. If you didn't believe that then you are probably just going out there to go through the motions."

Fifteen seasons have passed since Harte was handed the reins in Tyrone. His most recent deal with the county board is due to expire at the end of this campaign and his future was cast into some doubt when officials refused to grant him an extension until 2018.

However, he hinted he has no intention of moving on in the near future.

"Anyone who is in the business of being as good as you can be, the pressure comes from within. It's your own pressure to deliver the best of yourself, to help your players deliver the best of themselves, that's the only pressure I entertain. I don't entertain pressure from anywhere else," he said.

"If someone decides in their wisdom they no longer want me managing Tyrone I have to accept that and move along. I'm in the business of doing the best for this Tyrone team, I don't intend to leave that just now."

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