Hell of a game that was on Saturday evening.
You’d struggle to find another match never mind an U21 All-Ireland final that typified all that is so right and all that is so wrong about Gaelic football than what took place in Parnell Park. Never before has an under-age match unveiled so many leaders. Not potential leaders but ready-made ones.
Tipperary’s football future remains bright. In the face of fierce opposition directed at him, Colin O’Riordan stood as a colossus. Bill Maher is Eamon O’Shea’s loss and Peter Creedon’s gain.
Kevin O’Halloran is an incredible find. Ballybofey will be a cauldron on Sunday week but Mickey Harte would be well-advised to throw in an U21 bolter or two.
The mettle men like Cathal McShane and Kieran McGeary showed three days ago should be gratefully received. But it’s a game that won’t live in memory but infamy. It’s the contentious issues that continue to dominate the aftermath of Tyrone’s victory and Tipperary’s defeat. Peel away the vested interests and there are some harsh realities for both teams and the referee. Whether they accept them or not is another thing:
Should it really have been a hop ball?
On the basis of what his umpire told him, it should be a source of regret to referee Fergal Kelly that he didn’t award a hop ball in injury-time after sending off Michael Cassidy for a second yellow card. Tyrone’s free should have been overturned but had his umpire also seen a Tipperary player swing at a Tyrone defender Kelly’s initial decision would likely have stood.
Tipperary should have been down to 14 men after 12 minutes
Steven O’Brien may yet face a retrospective ban for his stamp on Cathal McShane as it appears Kelly didn’t see the infringement. Kelly also seemed to consider O’Brien’s trip on McShane was accidental. The Longford referee didn’t have the benefit of a second look but it was a black card offence.
On two counts, the talismanic midfielder was fortunate to remain on the pitch. Without him, Tipperary would have had a mountain to climb. Had Tipperary won with 15 men on the field, Tyrone would have as much reason as Tipp do now to be upset.
There were a number of instances in the first half when Tipperary made cynical challenges. Tyrone were guilty of several such fouls and delaying tactics in the closing stages.
As Tipperary chased the game towards the end, Tyrone’s transgressions were more pronounced but that didn’t lessen the Munster champions’ earlier infringements. “We’re in the real world,” said Tyrone manager Feargal Logan of Tyrone’s behaviour at the death. That may be so but it still doesn’t make it right.
Tyrone’s sledging mightn’t be taught but it’s practised
After the game, Logan insisted he has never encouraged players to sledge: “I can promise you this, I have told our men never to sledge or talk to people. I have told them not to conduct themselves cynically”. Logan should be taken at his word.
In his playing days, selector Peter Canavan received more verbals than gave them. But in spite of that and Logan’s plea, Tyrone on Saturday did indulge in such intimidating tactics.
Tipperary turned from sore to sour
“Take your beating” is one of the great unique GAA sayings. In slightly agricultural terms, it speaks of the necessity of dignity in defeat.
“Given the circumstances, Tipperary had reason to be sore but their officials’ barring of Logan from entering their dressing room lacked class.
On Twitter, former Tipperary star Declan Browne spoke the most sense: “Very proud of our U21s, heartbreaking defeat and hard to accept but let’s have no sour grapes, learn from this and drive on.” He added: “The fact that we were in a great position to win game and couldn’t is what we should be giving out about.”
Tyrone killed the clock cynically and expertly
Some of their means of stopping Tipperary’s momentum late on went beyond the rules of the game. As for the exorbitant amount of time it took to replace Lee Brennan in injury-time?
It was well within the rules. Substitutions still aren’t regarded as stoppages and there was nothing that Kelly could do to compensate Tipperary for the seconds lost. It’s an indictment that the GAA have yet to address the matter having say good riddance to the clock/hooter in February.
Tipperary weren’t holier than thou
As passionate as Tipperary football chairman Joe Hannigan was on RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Sport, he was wrong to agree to the interview having just watched the game live:
“We are not prepared to coach our players the cynicism to win matches. Maybe that’s what people are advocating that we do but we’re not prepared to do that”.
A second viewing may have changed his mind.
Anyway, his statement appeared to contradict the sentiments of manager Tommy Toomey who said Tipperary may “need to get a small bit more cynical, there’s a lot of stuff goes on in these games that Tipperary have to learn”.
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GPA asserting their independence from HQ
GAA opinion is divided about the GPA’s decision to broadcast their intention to announce their support of a yes vote in the forthcoming marriage equality referendum.
It might appear to be at odds with the GAA’s apolitical status but the official player’s body’s executive had two good reasons to poll its members on the issue.
The public utterances and appearances of players like Donegal’s Eamon McGee, Dublin pair Rory O’Carroll and Michael Darragh Macauley and Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy encouraging people to tick the affirmative box on May 22 provided a clear mandate to seek players’ thoughts on the matter.
Post-match acceptance speeches like Ger Brennan’s after last year’s All-Ireland senior club football final and Derek McGrath’s interview following Waterford’s Division 1 win on Sunday have also been shots in the arm for the equality campaign.
But it must also be stressed the pending declaration of support for a yes vote has also provided the GPA with the perfect opportunity to distinguish its independence from the GAA, a freedom which hasn’t exactly been obvious since they were officially recognised in 2010.
After the GAA shot down referee David Gough’s plan to wear a rainbow wristband in support of a yes vote and gay rights in a Division 1 game in March, the GPA might be running a gauntlet, especially in a year where they must sit down with the GAA to negotiate a renewal of their funding mechanism. But this is a calculated gamble and a political one too as well as proof they listen to their members.
Derek McGrath brings Waterford rewards
It’s no great secret in Waterford that at the end of last year, the knives were out for Derek McGrath, not just among some supporters but some of the county board executive too.
The style of hurling he began employing in 2014, especially without results, was anathema to those naively harking back to the Justin McCarthy era.
But in other ways McGrath was the victim of circumstance. A cohort of prominent club delegates and current board officials were outraged when the players opposed Michael Ryan continuing in the role. It galled them that player power had once more taken root.
McGrath never crossed any picket line — Ryan stepped away from the role of his own volition — but he was regarded as a blackleg nonetheless. What he has done this spring is worthy of a term extension.
That he is one of their own should be considered too. He comes cheap but his dividends are rich.
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