Tyrone must be less desperate to win

In February of last year, Kerry were chasing a late equalising point against Dublin in their opening Division 1 game in Croke Park when Aidan O’Mahony fell to the ground in the hope of persuading David Coldrick to award him a free.

Tyrone must be less desperate to win

What O’Mahony was selling, Coldrick wasn’t buying and he was yellow carded for his troubles.

It was a remarkable moment, because not since Pat McEnaney has there been a match official prepared to penalise simulation. Yet, because it was a league game that Kerry lost and the defender was punished for his audacity, it was never going to make the same headlines as his feigning act which saw Donncha O’Connor sent off in the drawn 2008 All-Ireland semi-final. Like Michael Shields’ dive in this year’s drawn Munster final wasn’t big news, not just because Cork didn’t win but nobody lost out as a result of it (apart from Shields and his pride).

Tiernan McCann’s dastardly deed on Saturday was going to dominate the sports news cycle for several reasons, namely because his team had won the game and his theatrics were regarded as a means of convincing Marty Duffy to send off one of the Monaghan players who might have inspired a late revival.

It was also Tyrone. Two years on from Sean Cavanagh’s infamous tackle on Conor McManus, here they were indulging in more unpleasantries with McCann’s fall being just one example.

The correlation between how they protected their lead in both fixtures did nothing to dissuade the belief that not only is the black card not working but Tyrone have done little to clean up part of their act.

Like 2013, their supporters are indignant with the level of attack aimed the way of their team and they have every right to be furious about some of the commentary which has been excessive, particularly Colm O’Rourke’s criticism of them on The Sunday Game where he said Tyrone were beginning to be followed by “a bad smell”.

It was a little rich coming from O’Rourke. Leaf through the former Meath great’s autobiography “The Final Whistle” and you’ll discover how far he went to get his own way. If he felt he wasn’t being protected by a referee he would run up to his marker and, as he wrote, “just at the right moment I would give him an unmerciful box behind the ear.

Of course, it was a cowardly act and you run the risk of getting one in return or starting a stand-up fight but extreme measures are sometimes needed to allow the game to be played in the way it is supposed to be.”

O’Rourke adds: “For the last few years, being involved with The Sunday Game on RTÉ has been a major disadvantage in that a few people who needed to be sorted out badly got away with doing things one would normally not accept. But being involved with television meant I had to just put up with it.”

Tyrone sure could be smarter about finishing off matches in a more understanding if not acceptable manner. They could learn from their U21s. In May’s final against Tipperary, they killed the clock with substitutes and players slowly making their way off the field. A mentor also strayed onto the field as a means of distracting the referee from his time-keeping.

In last August’s All-Ireland semi-final replay, Kerry ran down the time on Cormac Reilly’s watch by making the most of the rows that broke out between players in the closing stages. As they showed against Galway this summer, Mayo are mastering that black art too but there are no slouches in other questionable practices such as exploiting the blood sub rule loophole, which they did for the fifth time in three years this past weekend with Andy Moran’s replacing of Barry Moran.

No team more than Dublin likes to think they are whiter than white yet the cynicism shown in the closing stages of the 2013 still hangs in the air while there was sledging evident from both sides in the Fermanagh game.

Speaking to respected Tyrone GAA figures yesterday, they were privately disappointed with McCann’s antics and were embarrassed for the player.

Did he deserve the derision?

It’s an occupational hazard in this modern world where everyone seemingly must have their spake. However, his worst punishment may follow in the eyes of referees who take a more cynical view of his play. O’Mahony and Shields know those are the breaks too.

When quizzed about O’Mahony’s sneaky act last year, Eamonn Fitzmaurice called it as it is: “Technically speaking, a dive is a yellow card. Aidan was trying to win a free. I don’t think it was a free, to be honest.”

Yesterday evening, Mickey Harte said McCann accepts he "made a mistake" but then qualified it. He was right to acknowledge McCann’s error as he was to defend him. It won’t arrest the siege mentality that is currently filling Tyrone’s tanks. They have an All-Ireland to win but if they are to go all the way they can’t be so desperate.

Are Cats losing some of shine?

Another myth about Kilkenny hurling was debunked this weekend. “What’s that?“, says you. That Kilkenny actually do tactics. Come off it — that one was exposed years ago. That they don’t need goals to win games. They’ve shown before they don’t require them.

No, for years we have been told by Brian Cody and his men the team has been picked on the basis of training. We always had doubts about that especially when those players replaced early in a game wouldn’t start the following one.

But this supposed fact was well and truly exposed after Sunday’s semi-final when Cody spoke about Michael Fennelly’s difficulties this summer.

“Michael Fennelly has had problems for a long time. Essentially, the last game he played was against Wexford, which was a long time ago. He really didn’t take part in hurling training, at all, to be honest. And to have played and given the performance he did tells a fair story.”

An exception was made for Henry Shefflin in 2010 and Cody may have sworn he would never make such an allowance again. But he doesn’t have the resources he once had.

In their four biggest battles this year, the two league games with Clare, the Leinster final and Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final, he has made just six tactical substitutions.

Richie Hogan was valued so much he was given a chance even when he couldn’t walk 48 hours before throw-in.

Cody was proven right in affording him as much time and assistance. But while Kilkenny’s riches still exceed the competition’s they are definitely poorer.

Sky’s the limit

You may have seen a photograph doing the rounds on social media of a front room in Balla, Co Mayo, packed with people watching the county’s All-Ireland quarter-final on TV last Saturday.

There are even some less-fortunate souls outside peering in to get a view of what, it is claimed, is the only set in the town with a Sky Sports subscription.

It obviously evokes a deep sense of nostalgia and memories of people gathering around the wireless listening to games. However, that scene should be of a bygone era. Yes, it illustrates the allure of Gaelic games, but also how the Sky Sports deal last year continues to discommode supporters. Bringing people together, yes, but not in the right way.

Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie

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