Abandoning provinces akin to giving up on catching Dublin: Harte
DISBANDING the GAA’s provincial system would be akin to “giving up” on others catching Dublin, believes Mickey Harte.
The Tyrone boss, who also defended the equally under-fire structure of the Super 8s, believes that the capital county’s domination of Leinster football will drive those around them to raise standards and eventually catch up.
The Ulster and Connacht championships have continued to hold their own, as have both Leinster and Munster in hurling, but have been undermined by the Leinster and, to a marginally lesser degree Munster, football competitions.
Asked if the idea that Dublin could potentially win the next 10 provincial football titles to add to their 14 in the last 15 years, Harte responded: “You are presuming or assuming that Dublin will win, just because they have won it over the last ten or eleven years, that they might do it again.
“Do you not think that this will drive the rest of the teams in Leinster to raise their standards, to start right now to raise their standards?
“Not just at the team that they have at adult level now, but every team in the structure of the county. That's going to be the incentive. Ask everybody 'how do we get better, how do we challenge?'
“So you challenge at underage level first of all and give them that belief, we can take on teams from Dublin and be competitive with them, if not beat them.
“That's where it begins. If that is going to take five, or six years then so be it. But I wouldn't give up. I don't like giving up. I think it's not a good idea. You go and do something about it.
“And changing systems? We saw what change did before. That's how this black card was cried in by people at Congress who shouldn't have been there.
“And look what it has given us, a complete mess where we don't know what is a black card, they have been applied erroneously, more times than correctly and it is an awful nightmare.”
Mayo’s win over Donegal was shown on Sky Sports rather than a free-to-air station, a debate around which was led by Declan Bonner last week arguing that games of that “magnitude” should be on RTÉ.
The Sunday Game panel picked up the debate at the weekend but Harte believes the competition among the TV stations has improved the standards of analysis.
“Look, the GAA deal with who they want to deal with in terms of who they give the rights of their games to. I have to suggest that the introduction of Sky to the promotion and presentation of Gaelic games has helped what we’re looking at.
“There were no graphics much until Sky brought them in – did they not exist of the last 10 or 15 years? I think they did. I think that’s an advantage of them.
“We’re getting more insightful analysis, all sorts of diagrams and arrows and highlighting that didn’t happen before, so there’s something good in what’s going on there. Don’t just think that it’s all wrong.
“I never seen so many people so interested in people in homes and other places around the country that can’t see television. It seems strange that these people suddenly have such a grá for these kind of people.
“Why should anybody have the God-given right to see all games on television? That was never the case back in the day and we all survived.
“Just because it’s a luxury that’s available nowadays and some people can pay for it, other people may choose not, and we’ll all have the luxury of seeing highlights afterwards if we didn’t go to the game.”
The long-serving Red Hand boss also defended the premise of the Super 8s – and believes that Meath, Cork and Roscommon will all benefit from having played in it this year.
The concept appears to be hanging by a thread after Sunday saw the group stages finish out with two dead-rubbers, one of which was a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final.
Between them, Tyrone (15) and Dublin (13) made 28 changes to their line-ups from their previous game, while Cork and Roscommon played out an admittedly entertaining tie that meant nothing in terms of their progress.
But Harte feels that the dismissal of the quarter-final group stages has been too rushed.
“There are a few wee things that obviously are problems with the last right format at the moment, but I think there’s things can be done to attend to that.
“And I suppose it’s only when you go through a thing for three seasons that people can reflect on what was it that didn’t work out the way we would like it to, or what are the things that we didn’t anticipate or might have to think about.
“I don’t think it’s just right now to highlight and focus on the few problems or issues, and forget about the fact that there are some very good things.
“There was a cracking game in Castlebar, and last year in Ballybofey there was a cracking game that decided who was going through to the semi-final.
“So it can present the opposite to what happened in a couple of games, and strangely enough, the Cork-Roscommon game was very competitive. Don’t tell me that none of those two teams cared about winning that game, even though they weren’t going to qualify for the semi-final.
“It’s an arena for teams who are coming up maybe from Division Two, if they make it through, who are going to be new entrants into Division One next year. This is a taste of the level they’re going to have to play at.
“So I think Meath have been very happy to be in it as well, because they have played big matches against teams that they’re going to be playing against next year. So it has been good for them.