'Our clubs are not starved of their county players', insists Harte
Mickey Harte has vehemently refuted the notion that inter-county managers peddle too much power and are responsible for the fixture ills besetting GAA club players.
Last week saw the official launch of the Club Players' Association, in direct response to an ongoing club fixtures crisis and how the county calendar is affecting the grassroots game. Yet Harte cited his own county of Tyrone as a case study in how the club and county scenes can successfully coalesce.
"There are lots of things thrown at county managers - that they are power-brokers and that they want too much power and all this," said the veteran Tyrone boss.
"That's just language that is thrown out there - and if it's thrown out often enough, it can become a truth for some people. I don't see that as the case. I don't think you can generalise what happens even within different counties, because people are always talking about the club and county conflict.
"They are talking as if county players get no club football and their clubs have no access to them.
"I can speak for Tyrone only with conviction and complete knowledge - there are 15 league games, four of them are starred games which means that county players are not available. They are available for all of the other league games and they are available for all championship games."
He added: "Our clubs are not being starved of their county players. But some people would have you believe that there are county players who are not getting two games with their clubs all year, and maybe not getting games with their county so their careers are lost that year. That may happen in some isolated cases, it may happen in some counties from time to time, but it doesn't happen in them all.
"It's not the norm, it's the exception. So why do we take these exceptions and hold them up as the norm?
"Look at the whole thing, get some real decent research in numbers and see what we come up with. If people come up with that kind of case scenario whenever they've done all that research, I'll say 'Okay, I'll accept your findings'. But don't throw out these sound-bites and make us believe that's the truth always."
Harte conceded that "issues" between club and county programmes have been there for some time and need to be fixed, but he added: "It's not as if everything is the fault of the county scene and the club scene are always the hard done by people. Everybody has their agenda and everybody needs to try and facilitate their options within the whole framework."
He also disputed the theory that inter-county football or hurling has become "a chore" for players.
"I have not yet met anyone who has does not enjoy playing for Tyrone, and I think there are very few county footballers who do not enjoy what they are doing," he concluded.