Depending on your level of engagement with the Irish media, when you see certain names among the trending topics in Ireland, you may feel you needn’t bother checking out why.
You already know the full story.
When Frank Flannery or John Waters are listed, you can be sure a large proportion of the twitterverse is disagreeing vigorously with something they’ve said.
When Gene Kerrigan is trending, you can be sure a large number of people are agreeing vigorously with something he’s said (Gene Kerrigan really hits the nail on the head re Irish Wat… etc, etc, etc).
When this columnist sees a male name with which he is unfamiliar trending in Ireland, the first reaction is usually to assume that a member of One Direction has a new girlfriend.
No doubt those inclined to watch Chelsea on Saturday evening were of the same mind when they saw McCann’s name trending.
One scarcely needs reminding of the reasons for Tiernan’s notoriety at this point.
After Darren Hughes lovingly patted McCann’s beautifully maintained coiffure (in itself an unusual move on a football pitch), the Tyrone wing-forward spun around and flung himself to the deck with breathtaking speed. By the time the first slow-motion replay had been shown, Tiernan’s fate as the pantomime villain du jour had been sealed.
Among the GAA community, divers are held in marginally less esteem than gougers and stampers.
Inevitably, dark references were made to Premiership footballers, of whom McCann’s antics were allegedly reminiscent. (And Tiernan doesn’t even get paid to dive. He does it for the love of it...)
Late on Saturday evening, McCann, who was later black-carded, did not appear to be cowering under the weight of public opprobrium.
Indeed, he dealt with the controversy in a manner which leads this column to admire his chutzpah, ie by issuing a series of cheeky re-tweets.
Now obviously, re-tweets do not constitute an endorsement, though McCann’s bio does not explicitly say so.
It was largely good- humoured fare, though it annoyed some — one re-tweet referenced the extent to which he valued his hair.
Needless to say, these re-tweets were subsequently un-retweeted, presumably on the advice of some killjoy in a position of responsibility.
We note that his current Twitter cover photo consists of a picture of Oscar Wilde accompanied by the quote “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. We assume this is a new cover photo but can’t be sure, not having been a frequenter of his Twitter page before Saturday.
Meanwhile, the debate has followed the normal pattern. By Sunday afternoon, the circle had turned. Folk splurge on outrage. It simmers down a tad until the contrarians feel safe to make themselves known.
At around 2pm yesterday, tweets of the ‘You’d think he’d shot someone’ variety were sprouting up.
Will we ever grow to love Tyrone?
Aided by McCann’s performance, Tyrone’s status as perhaps the most unloved team in the game was greatly reinforced over the weekend.
Following their loss in Ballybofey, the kings of the qualifiers embarked on a typically grim, joyless progression all the way through to the month of August.
It is now approximately 240 minutes since a goal has been scored in a game involving Tyrone — and that was a penalty converted by Peter Harte against Meath. They haven’t conceded a goal in their last five matches, not since Martin McElhinney’s strike shortly before half-time in Ballybofey in May.
They were deeply impressive on Saturday, playing with the knowing composure of a team who have complete faith in their system and manager.
Their manager was not asked about the Tiernan McCann dive in his post-match interview with Sky Sports.
But Harte has angrily confronted diving allegations before at a National League press conference two years back, saying he’d “never tell a player to dive, in fact I’d be disgusted if they did dive”.
James McCartan, then still Down manager, was seated alongside the Tyrone manager. After Harte had finished his earnest tirade, McCartan grabbed the microphone to offer his support (though it is unclear whether he was talking about systematic fouling or diving or both).
“We’ve played against Mickey a few times and I’d concur with everything [he said]. He doesn’t tell them to do it, they just do it naturally...”
Inter-county scene undergoes seismic shift
In the last five years (2011-2015), only six counties have participated in All-Ireland football semi-finals — Dublin, Mayo, Kerry, Donegal, Tyrone, and, with one solitary appearance in 2012, Cork.
The wearying predictability is beginning to take its toll on supporters.
It’s difficult to credit that it is only five years since Down led an All-Ireland final by three points at half time.
They had executed a perfect ambush of Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-final and then pipped Kildare (remember when they were contenders?) in contentious circumstances in the All-Ireland semi-final.
What else happened that year?
Well, Dublin trailed Wexford by 0-10 to 0-3 with 20 minutes left in the Leinster first round — before ekeing out a draw and pulling away in extra time.
They were then smashed by Meath in the Leinster quarter-final, and the players finally got to grips with Pat Gilroy’s new tactical plan in the qualifiers.
Well, Mayo were defeated by Sligo in the first round in Connacht and were beaten by a point by Longford in the qualifiers in Pearse Park, an unfortunate but fitting end to John O’Mahony’s mysteriously abject second spell as manager.
And of course, as new manager Jim McGuinness would remind his players later that year, Donegal were ranked 19th in the country…
Time to pull a solution on throw-ins
At present, hurling’s solution to the problem of unsightly rucks developing around the ball is a mechanism almost guaranteed to produce another one.
Donal O’Grady sounded fed up of it in commentary yesterday, suggesting that on the second successive throw-in, players should be forced to pull on the ball, rather than the present situation, in which multiple players ferret around for the ball attempting to pick it and go.
Surely this solution would find favour among supporters, for whom the first-time pull has never lost its lustre.
Presumably, hurling’s ingrained ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mindset will likely scupper any attempt at innovations on the legislative front.
But then, they found a better way on penalties. Surely it can’t be beyond the wit of the next hurling review committee to dream up a panacea for endless throw-ins?
Tweets of the weekend
I’m more infuriated by Tiernan McCann retweeting tweets about his dive than I was by the dive itself. Is that an irrational reaction?
In the words of Late Ted Kennedy- “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die” #KKvWAT
Playing with Mila’s hair this past 20 mins and she hasn’t budged! #puppystrong
Enda Kenny and his wife booed by #CrokePark crowd after appearing on big screen. Mayo fans especially vocal. #GAA #MAYvDON
Great to see #Rte mix it up with the panelists. #KenMcGrath a great addition..Panelists that are relevant #TheSundayGame