McCarthy was sent off in the 51st minute for his angry reaction to a sliding challenge by Michael Murphy on Ciaran Kilkenny which saw the Donegal captain receive the same sanction.
It was McCarthy’s tangle with Donegal substitute Martin McElhinney, ironically an ex-team-mate at DCU, that was particularly controversial as the Dublin defender’s left hand made contact with McElhinney’s eye area.
McCarthy’s club and county colleague, Philly McMahon, who scored the 66th-minute goal that sealed holders Dublin’s sixth consecutive win, was the subject of eye-gouging allegations in last September’s All-Ireland final.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin kicked to touch on the controversy, stating he would have to review the incident though Gallagher, like Donaghy last year, said they wished to park the matter.
Asked about a gouge, Gallagher said: “I didn’t see anything. Look, none of our players are complaining about anything. Definitely not.”
Gallagher was more disappointed about the Murphy dismissal, claiming that the first yellow card for a fifth-minute body collision was the wrong call. Donegal struggled without Murphy and were heavily outscored.
Gallagher suggested that Murphy, a powerful presence around midfield for defensive minded Donegal on Saturday evening, doesn’t receive fair treatment from referees.
“As far as I could see, with the first booking, the Dublin player mis-soloed the ball, Michael stood his ground,” said Gallagher.
“There’s no point hiding behind it, Michael gets refereed, in our opinion, slightly different. We can look at maybe (another) incident early in the Kerry game where their player got nothing, no card. Just disappointed.”
Dublin led by just a point when the dismissals occurred and went on to win by six, outscoring Donegal by 1-5 to 0-1 in the last 30 minutes of the match.
“Ah, come here, it was two fouls, two yellow cards, it was a red.” said Murphy himself. “I have to deal with it and get on with it, you know.
“That’s all I have to say on it really.”
There was far more said about Donegal’s style of play on the evening which, not for the first time against Dublin at Croke Park, was all about containment and suffocation.
It worked for 45 minutes or so too as Donegal led by a point at that stage but when the game became stretched, particularly after the dismissals, Dublin’s patience paid off and they finished strong.
Former Dublin forward Alan Brogan, attending the game, tweeted that Donegal’s defensive play was “a load of crap”.
“We have just become accustomed to it now,” said Dublin manager Gavin of facing blanket defences.
“Most teams will present a defensive system like that. They want to compress the game, they want to exploit space that we leave behind. We’ve had it in most games. But there is no right or wrong way to play Gaelic football. Teams decide on it themselves.
“We’ve a particular way to play football in Dublin, it’s expressive, it’s creative.”
Dublin led 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time and opened up in the last 25 minutes or so with that flowing football though there were still just three points in it until McMahon netted after good work from Kevin McManamon and Paul Flynn.
McManamon was Dublin’s key performer with three points and some rare moments of inspiration on the night.
Dublin were already through to the semi-finals but can finish the group campaign with a perfect record if they beat Roscommon next weekend.
Gavin said Stephen Cluxton and Diarmuid Connolly didn’t feature against Donegal as they’re away at the moment.
“The way we’ve approached every game, we are going after that process of performance,” said Gavin.
“That didn’t change against Donegal even though we’d guaranteed a semi-final spot. We didn’t speak about having to get the two points, just go after the performance and it’ll be the same again.”
P McMahon (1-0), C Costello (2 frees) and K McManamon (0-3 each), C Kilkenny, D Rock, P Andrews and B Fenton (0-1 each).
P McBrearty (0-3, 1 free), M Murphy, E McGee, R Kavanagh and O MacNiallais (0-1 each).
M Savage; P McMahon, J Cooper, David Byrne; J McCarthy, E Lowndes, J Small; B Fenton, D Bastick; K McManamon, P Flynn, C Kilkenny; C Costello, P Andrews, B Brogan.
D Rock for Brogan (41), E O Conghaile for Bastick (45), SB Carthy for Lowndes (53), M Fitzsimons for Small (53), T Brady for Costello (59), D Daly for McManamon (69).
MA McGinley; P McGrath, E McGee, C Gillespie; M O’Reilly, A Thompson, R McHugh; O MacNiallais, M Murphy; R Kavanagh, K Lacey, E McHugh; P McBrearty, L McLoone, H McFadden.
M McHugh for McGrath (41), M McElhinney for McLoone (45), E Gallagher for Thompson (59), C Toye for H McFadden (59), C McFadden for Lacey (65), M Carroll for Kavanagh (73).
C Lane (Cork).