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Harte hankers for a bit more positivity and says modern game is way ahead of Dublin v Kerry golden years

MICKEY HARTE was in Croke Park yesterday to promote this Sunday's Allianz Football League finals - in his own case the Division Two decider between Tyrone and Kildare.

But, typically, the veteran manager had plenty more to say and used the occasion to unleash the wrath of Harte against what he perceives as the scourge of modern-day football - rampant negativity.

By that we don't mean on-field cynicism or even blanket defence tactics. Rather, it's the negative perception peddled about 21st century football that leaves Harte at the point of exasperation.

Not stuck for words, mind you. "I just cannot understand why so many people have been blighted by Donegal/Dublin last year, and their eight-six game, as if it was a total reflection on all that Gaelic football has to offer," says the Tyrone boss, quickly warming to his theme.

"In the totality of what went on even last season, it has no bearing on the overall outcome - a minimal bearing. There are lots of very, very attractive games played; lots of very attack- minded teams out there. But they'll entertain in a way that is relevant in today's game, and we shouldn't be harking back to ... this catch-and-kick mentality really bores me to tears.

"Go take a look at the TG4 (All-Ireland) Gold series, and it's not that exciting. It was the best there was at that time," he clarifies.

"I was here in the '70s, watched Dublin and Kerry and admired them greatly ... now we have something of a different era that I find equally exciting. And we hear people decrying it and demeaning it. Let's be real about it."

All it required was some more gentle prodding for Harte to expand on a raft of areas where, he believes, negativity is undermining the GAA's on-field product.

(1) First up, Liam O'Neill's recent assertion - on assuming the GAA presidency - that defensive tactics and over-use of the handpass have made much of today's football "boring".

"It doesn't surprise me, because if people keep saying something often enough, then certain people start to believe it. It's not the truth," he added.

To back up his point, he cites the huge number of matches now covered 'live' on TV and asks how could you expect all these to be "of a standard" with All-Ireland semi-finals and finals, the only games broadcast in the '60s, '70s and '80s.

(2) What about O'Neill's intimation that the GAA might reintroduce the 'sin bin' as a means of tackling football's high free count?

"I hope not. That's looking for the negative," Harte counters. "So let's look for the positives that belong to our game, and flag them up. Of course there will be indiscipline -- there always has been a degree of indiscipline.

"But in fact if you go back again to the same era that we've been speaking about: as somebody said, some of the things that went on then would be GBH now -- it wouldn't be a foul at all (then)."


Football has "never been as disciplined," he maintains, "and I hope it continues that way -- that we can eradicate as much as possible nastiness out of the game, nobody wants that. But at the same time, if we speak about it all the time, if that's our focus, then we're bringing ourselves to the wrong place."

(3) Does the perception of football suffer by comparison with hurling's lower free count?

"That's because they blow for too much in football, and in hurling the frees don't happen," Harte asserts, with some justification. "There's a different mentality in refereeing hurling.

"Hurlers can walk into each other, walk over each other, do all sorts of things, in the spirit of the game, and there's not as much blowing. So, because there's more fouls blown doesn't mean there is more fouls in football."

His solution? "Get back to the whole issue of interpretation of the rules. Some man's foul one day is not a foul the other day. So that consistency is not there, and that's something we still have to address."

(4) Finally, does all this negativity contribute to lower crowds, such as the 11,342 that witnessed the NFL Division One semi-finals at Croke Park?

"I think even that talk about the crowd is a negative thing," Harte argues. "When people say there's only 12,000 or 13,000, why didn't you say there's 12,000 or 13,000? Why not go about marketing it to see can we get more to it?

"And I don't care how many is out here, when there's a game in Croke Park, every player that ever played football would want to play out there."

He concludes: "We need to get on with the business of being more positive in promoting what we have to offer, instead of talking it down.

"I don't know of any other organisation that does this, in business or sport or anywhere else - that decry their own product."