Familiarity breeds contempt between Derry, Tyrone, Armagh and Cavan

They must stop meeting like this. Seriously, they must. For the good of themselves and the game, if there’s anything the pairs of Derry and Tyrone and Armagh and Cavan need it’s space from each other. But such thinking is wishful.
Familiarity breeds contempt between Derry, Tyrone, Armagh and Cavan

This Saturday, Derry and Tyrone clash for what will be the third time already this year having already been involved in a couple of controversy-tinged McKenna Cup bouts.

On the horizon constantly looms their Ulster quarter-final at the same Omagh venue on May 22.

A fifth date, a Division 2 final, isn’t out of the question either.

Throwing in at the same time in two days’ time is the duel between their fellow Division 2 opponents and Ulster brethren Cavan and Armagh.

In January’s McKenna Cup, they renewed acquaintances for the first time since 2014’s infamous “Paradegate”.

Needless to say, memories weren’t short as five men were red-carded and another couple issued black cards.

They too will lock horns again in the provincial championship in Cavan on May 29.

The appointments of David Coldrick to Healy Park and Maurice Deegan to Kingspan Breffni Park are indicative of just how aware Croke Park are of the previous between each set of counties. A couple of Coldrick’s recent appointments involving Tyrone haven’t passed without controversy. Refereeing the Tyrone-Derry Division 1 game last year, then Derry manager Brian McIver accused him of a “hometown decision” in awarding a late free to Tyrone, which earned them a draw.

In the 2014 Ulster quarter-final, Coldrick failed to black card Down’s Conor Maginn for pulling down Mark Donnelly for a penalty. Maginn went onto score a second half goal in helping Down secure a draw.

Coldrick later acknowledged his mistake in Omagh but he and Deegan are considered safe hands. They will need to be because the likelihood of either game passing off without major incident is slim.

Brendan Rogers will be available to Derry after the nasty facial injury he picked up in a collision with Tiernan McCann in the McKenna Cup final. All but two of the seven Armagh and Cavan men dismissed via red and black cards in January should line out at some stage in Cavan.

Aside from the familiarity, the lack of accountability and euphemistic language used by management in passing off incidents hasn’t helped either. After the McKenna Cup final where Derry manager Damian Barton was one of three sent off (he is currently seeing out a resultant eight-week ban), his selector Tony Scullion played down the skirmishes: “There were a couple of boiling points but, hey, that’s what the GAA is about. That’s what the people want to see — a wee bit of spice.”

In the immediate aftermath of the game, Tyrone’s Mickey Harte said he would ask his players to reflect on what they did and “the next time the situation arises they might make a different choice to what they would do”.

However, weeks later he defended McCann’s involvement in the incident with Rogers.

“If Tiernan had any malicious intent, he would have been looking at the person. He has his eyes on the ball. He turns his body to reach for the ball and I believe he wanted to take the ball away from the contact altogether.”

After Armagh’s defeat to Cavan in January, Kieran McGeeney acknowledged some of the off-the-ball challenges were “stupid” but then claimed pundits influence referees to officiate Ulster derbies with a dimmer view.

“I hate Ulster using that as an excuse for poor football and when we talk about it like that, I think the referees referee it in a different way. I see a lot of teams on the other side of the border playing a more physical game and being allowed to play that game.”

Cavan’s Terry Hyland put the five red cards down to passion.

“Any competition matters to Ulster teams and that’s why the McKenna Cup is a unique competition in Ireland.”

The Ulster championship has been and will continue to be Gaelic football’s saving grace in early summer. Its calling cards are intensity and competition but it has generally been self-contained.

With five counties from the province in Division 2 this year, that has proven difficult. In the cases of Derry-Tyrone and Armagh-Cavan their familiarity with each other has grown contemptuous.

  • Confusion surrounds the future of Tyrone strength and conditioning coach Peter Donnelly after he tendered his resignation yesterday.

It appears Donnelly has attempted on several occasions to outline to the county executive how he would like to see the preparation of players from the new Academy setup right through to senior level.

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