Sigerson Cup games must move back to mid-week as Tyrone lose seven players for McKenna Cup final: Mickey Harte

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte and Declan McClure at the launch of the Dr McKenna Cup in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh yesterday. Harte has reluctantly released seven UU players for Sigerson duty Picture by Hugh Russell.

MICKEY Harte has released his seven-strong Ulster University contingent for Sigerson Cup duty this weekend but is not happy with losing them for Saturday night’s Dr McKenna Cup final against Armagh.

Tyrone panellists Michael McKernan, Ben McDonnell, Brian Kennedy, Benny Gallen, Lee Brennan, David Mulgrew and Frank Burns will not feature in the McKenna Cup final as they will line out for Ulster Univesity the following day against IT Tralee in Kerry.

“Traditionally, the round games of the Sigerson were always midweek and while that interfered with our preparations in terms of training, you could tolerate that,” said Harte.

“We’re going to be missing seven players because they’re playing the next day in Tralee. You’d also have the possibility if they played for us on Saturday night they’d be shipped down to Tralee late that night or early the next morning and that wouldn’t be good for the players. So, in the best interests of the players, we have to let them be this time.

“It’s very important for a number of those players to be available for their county at this time.”

Queen’s Sigerson Cup opener with Maynooth University has also been fixed for this Sunday at Queen’s Arena, despite the home team wanting it moved to mid-week, which rules out James McAuley and Odhran Eastwood.

The Queen’s pair will be playing for St Enda’s Glengormley in the All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final against An Spideal in Navan on the same day.

“There are so many colleges involved in Sigerson and it’s way different. Back in the days when I remember there were four universities played in Sigerson on a Saturday and Sunday or a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But life has changed.

“There are more colleges and universities taking part in it, but I still think that it shouldn’t directly mean that players aren’t available for their county.

“That story comes out at the beginning of the year when we’re picking our squads for the McKenna Cup. You have to understand there is a Ryan Cup for Sigerson preparation and they have to understand that this an inter-county competition and that players will be with their county for a longer time and they’ll only be at college for a few years. We need to factor in all those things and there has to be some accommodation. We need to make sure that the fixtures return to mid-week, and you can live with that.”

Meanwhile, the Tyrone boss revealed inter-county referees he has spoken with are against the raft of new rules that have become a major talking point this month.


It is likely most the experimental rules – including the controversial three hand-pass rule - will be ditched at Saturday’s Central Council meeting.

“Obviously the focus has been on the hand pass because it’s the one most frustrating and noticeable for everybody," said Harte.

"Did anybody in their right mind think when you get to your third hand pass that you’re just going to route the ball in to the other side of the field and hope that people fight for it?

"People in the modern game are not like that. They’re different players, they are not gamblers with possession. So what are they going to do? They’re going to kick it backwards.

"This whole thing was supposed to create a more offensive game – it’s going to do quite the opposite. I don’t even think you needed to experiment with that to come to that conclusion.”

Harte was also critical of how the Standing Committee for Playing Rules went about consulting with managers and coaches.

“So you’ve asked me to comment on something that you have already agreed you’re going to do anyway? Do I feel I should contribute to that? Not at all.

“We were asked do you ‘agree’, ‘strongly agree’ – all this kind of nonsense – for something you weren’t even asked about in the first place which was agreed, legislated for and passed.”

Down referee Ciaran Branagan came in for some criticism after making a few wrong calls on the new hand pass rule during last weekend’s McKenna Cup semi-final against Derry.

But Harte defeated Sunday’s match official.

“I thought Ciaran Branagan was doing his best because he was shouting out the numbers. He should not have to do that but he was doing it because he wanted to help players come to terms with this rule.

“[But] He has to think about the steps that people take, the advantage rule where he has to have his hand up for five seconds, he has to think about a ball moving 20 metres on top of all the other issues that he has to deal with. So there wasn’t a lot of thought for the referees never mind the coaches or players.

“And it is not surprising that referees are keeping publicly quiet about it but privately they are not enamoured with this at all. They obviously don’t want to incur the wrath of those who will give them good games, so they keep a low profile and keep quiet on it. But the truth of the matter is anybody who I’ve been speaking to are not happy with it.”

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