Tyrone County Board likely to ask Mickey Harte to heal RTE rift ahead of ratification
Mickey Harte is expected to take another step towards being ratified as Tyrone senior football manager for 2016 tonight.
He meets with members of the county executive committee at the Garvaghy complex for a review of the season in which the Red Hands reached the All-Ireland semi-final.
However, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that the management of the Under-21 county team has yet to receive notification of when - or if - they will be rubber-stamped to defend their All-Ireland title next year, with a vacuum of communication developing that has the potential to cause a massive rift.
It had been reported that Harte would have to actually interview to remain in the post he had held since the winter of 2002, a claim that has been emphatically denied by county Public Relations Officer, Eunan Lindsay.
It's understood a number of issues will be brought up to Harte, but the meeting will be a more informal gathering than an interview.
At least three topics are set to be discussed, including the continuing stand-off between the Tyrone panel and management with RTÉ, the size of the senior backroom staff and the thorny issue of player availability.
It is believed that Harte has widespread backing of his players for his continuing refusal to speak to RTÉ, with Joe McMahon tweeting a supportive opinion column backing Harte's stance since he was the subject of a satirical sketch on The John Murray Show during the 2011 season.
Where it gets tricky is the expectation from team sponsors that a compromise would be reached between Tyrone and RTÉ, therefore exposing the sponsors to more screen time. This is said to have been part of any agreement relating to the present sponsorship deal.
As for the backroom, Harte and selector Gavin Devlin have a back-up staff of 13, with that number including three physios, a doctor and two masseurs.
That figure is not as lavish as other teams in comparable terms. When Donegal, the last team from Ulster to win the All-Ireland, reached last year's All-Ireland final, manager Jim McGuinness had a support staff of 17.
The Dublin football and Clare hurling set-ups have in excess of 20 people who support the team.
It might also be noted that Harte decided to trim back his backroom staff at the end of last season, losing two statistics men. And at present, the Tyrone management has no nutritionist, goalkeeping coach or sports psychologist, roles that would be considered de rigueur in the modern game.
The final issue of player availability is a more widespread issue within the GAA.
During the Under-21 team's march to the All-Ireland they were forced into something of a climbdown when players spoke up about not being permitted to play for their own club in a round of league fixtures.
It had the potential to cause a rift within the panel at the time, and management were forced to concede that battle and allow all their players to tog out for their club.
Asked about the nature of tonight's meeting, county PRO Lindsay was unaware of the date, but explained: "It's a case that the executive committee will be meeting with the Under-21 management, the senior management and the hurling management to discuss 2015 and see what the plans are for the year ahead."
Asked specifically if it was an 'interview' in the traditional sense, he replied, "Absolutely not", explaining that the term was used in relation to the minor manager's job, which has become vacant since Mickey Donnelly stepped away from the role.
"The nominations for the minor role are to close on Thursday and the only interviews that will be taking place are for the minor job," added Lindsay.
It is being widely rumoured within Tyrone that other counties might be poised to step in and offer Mickey Harte the management position with their own senior teams, if the situation is not resolved soon.