The heat has increased even more ahead of the Ulster Senior Championship final after Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte, expressed his views on pitch incursions this week.
Donegal and Tyrone meet on Sunday next in Clones (2.00 p.m.) and with Donegal having won the last four championship meetings, there is huge pressure on Tyrone, who have not contested a final for six years.
Speaking to the press at the Tyrone press event, the Tyrone boss was asked about selectors running on to the field (an obvious reference to Maxi Curran in the recent Donegal games against Monaghan). “Well, all I will say is that I fail to see the necessity to be on the pitch as much as some people do,” Harte said.
Some Donegal people might agree with him but others would point to the ‘performance’ of Tyrone mentor, Gavin Devlin, in similar circumstances in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey, last year, when Donegal last met Tyrone!
The Tyrone manager also responded to a question that there was bad blood between Donegal and Tyrone, especially in relation to incidents of verbal abuse in the minor championship game between the counties, also last year in MacCumhaill Park.
An investigation into an alleged incident in which Donegal minor, Michael Carroll, was the subject of verbal abuse, was conducted by the Ulster Council. No sanctions were handed out, but the investigation report stated that 'on the balance of probability, an incident did take place.'
However, while Harte claimed that there was no vitriol between the counties, his statement that the investigation left Tyrone in the clear would be hotly disputed by Donegal.
“There are a lot of people speaking with wonderful authority about this vitriol that is supposed to exist between Tyrone and Donegal. They didn’t show us any evidence, they went on rumour and the rumour mill,” said the Tyrone manager.
“They were prepared to talk about it as if it was the truth. That’s all been investigated and dealt with and there was no evidence. I don’t think any such vitriol exists between Tyrone and Donegal at all,” said Harte.
Whether he meant to or not, the comments will have increased, if that was possible, the heat when these teams clash for the fifth time in six years on Sunday next.
Donegal are appearing in a record sixth final in-a-row and have been dominant in the recent exchanges, but as Mickey Harte pointed out elsewhere in this paper, there has never been much in any of the contests.
Donegal had a training camp in Downings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as preparation, and they have been boosted by the return of Neil McGee after suspension.
Donegal supporters will have to be on the road early on Sunday next with the minors taking on Derry in the Ulster decider at the same venue with a 12 noon throw-in.