Sunday 18 August 2019

Harte urges GAA to retain provincial championships

Harte's Red Hand side takes on Derry in the preliminary round this weekend, with the winners set to face Antrim.. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Harte's Red Hand side takes on Derry in the preliminary round this weekend, with the winners set to face Antrim.. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Francis Mooney

Mickey Harte has warned against any move to scrap the provincial football championships in favour of a new format.

The prospect of a weaker county fulfilling a dream by appearing in a final must be kept alive, according to the Tyrone manager. Ironically, Harte will be doing his utmost to scupper any such hopes harboured by the two Ulster teams which played in Division 4 of the NFL this year.

His Red Hand side takes on Derry in the preliminary round this weekend, with the winners set to face Antrim.

"If you took away the possibility of a provincial final from them, I think you are taking away a lot of potential of something they are striving for and capable of getting to," he said.

"That's why I would want to still keep the provincial championships. There is an opportunity for four underdogs to make a big day in the GAA and if you take that away… I am not sure what qualifying system, Champions League style thing you bring in.

Developing "It is no big deal if you finish second in your league group and were beaten and never appear in the final. I don't think it would be good for people."

And to those advocating a new tiered championship system, he asked: "Could you tell me, what are you offering to the counties that are developing their games at this stage and not contesting All-Irelands, or even making the last eight on a regular basis?"

The new streamlined fixtures calendar means the Ulster Championship will be run off in six weeks, with the preliminary round on May 12 and the final scheduled for June 23.

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It means a more demanding schedule, with matches played on a more frequent basis, but Harte has no concerns over his side's ability to deal with regular championship action.

"As long as you get a fortnight, it's not bad, because sometimes waiting too long on a game is not good either, because it's very hard to tailor the intensity of your training," he said.

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