By John Fogarty and Francis Mooney
Dublin manager Jim Gavin believes star forward Diarmuid Connolly was a victim of a cynical approach by opponents who set out to provoke him.
Connolly was sent off after receiving a second booking in the second half of the 1-15 to 1-10 All-Ireland quarter-final win over Donegal.
The Dubs also had Eoghan O’Gara sent off in the closing stages, but managed to retain their composure to set up a semi-final clash with Kerry.
“I’m just saying to get two men sent off like that, a lot of what happened in the game was very predictable going into it," said Gavin.
"We all knew that would happen, that some of our players would receive special attention and that was the case and it’s up to officials to act on it and if they don’t? Eight of them, four umpires and the four men in black... they’re letting the players down on the pitch on both sides, by the way."
Gavin added it was obvious the forward is being targeted for provocation. Connolly picked up a ninth minute yellow card for an off-the-ball incident with Ryan McHugh and was later booked for a high tackle on Anthony Thompson in the 47th minute.
It followed an incident in the Leinster final when he was yellow carded after reacting to Westmeath’s James Dolan touching his hair.
“He plays within the rules as best he can. If he doesn’t he gets punished, and we accept that. But the rules have to be equally applied,” said Gavin.
“In the main, forwards want to get on and play, and to finish with 13 men is a bit strange.
Gavin claimed a team that plays in the way Dublin do shouldn’t finish the game with two men being sent off.
“It was a source of disappointment that for a team that plays the game the way that we want to play the game ends up with 13 men. That’s the surprising thing that I find, and there’s probably question you need to ask the officials on that one.
“Going into the game it was predictable that that would happen, that some of our players would receive special attention.
“That was the case, and it’s up to the officials to act upon it, and if they don’t – the eight of them, the four umpires and the four men in black – then they’re letting the players down, on both sides.”
According to Gavin, referees need to use the black card to stamp out provocation.
“There are black cards for cynical play both verbal and physical against opponents or your team-mates and for aggressive nature towards referees. That’s an area we don’t see too much of. Officials are doing a fantastic job.
"The standards have really increased and it’s great to see the co-ordination between the umpires and the linesmen. It’s certainly evolving but they need to have a closer look at that one.”
The Dubs boss was pleased with the application of his players, who remained focused in the face of a difficult situation, and closed the game out with a late Paul Mannion goal.
“I was very pleased with our performance, there were lots of hard questions asked of us by Donegal and lots of twists and turns in the game.
“The resilience that this team has built up over the last number of years, and the character and the application shone through there today.
“To be down to 13 men, to close a game out in that particular manner was a reflection of their intent.”
On the subject of Eoghan O’Gara’s straight red card, Gavin intimated Dublin are likely to seek a meeting with the Central Hearings Committee.
O’Gara looked to be harshly treated for slapping Neil McGee’s stomach.
“I think so, yeah,” said Gavin when asked about contesting the expected, proposed one-match ban.
“The players would know my opinions about raising your hands and if you make contact with somebody’s head you’re going to be sent off and you’ll get sympathy from me. I’ll have to look at it.”
Meanwhile, Donegal manager Rory Gallagher accepted that the Dubs were superior to his side on the day.
“Ultimately Dublin were the better team, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. We knew we were going to have to take every chance going,” he said.
“At half-time we were 9-4 down, and we felt we should have had six, seven or eight points on the board.
“In the second half, we threw everything at it, and got back to three, but to be fair to Dublin, they rode it out fairly well.
“To beat Dublin, you have to take everything, and we missed opportunities, that was disappointing.”