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Declan Bogue GAA column: Aggression is fine but we can't keep crossing the line

By Declan Bogue

Published 09/03/2016

Centre of attention: Tyrone ace Tiernan McCann was blasted for his coming together with Derry’s Brendan Rogers
Centre of attention: Tyrone ace Tiernan McCann was blasted for his coming together with Derry’s Brendan Rogers

At the end of January, Tyrone ace Tiernan McCann was charged and sentenced by the court of public opinion after an incident in the very first play of the Dr McKenna Cup final.

When referee Noel Mooney threw the ball in the air, McCann ran in for the break. His run took him past the ball, but as he was turning, his arm caught promising young Derry player Brendan Rogers. It forced his immediate withdrawal and, later, 14 stitches in the resultant gash.

On Saturday night, McCann was asked for the first time about his take on events. By this stage, the managers of both teams had offered conflicting reports.

"I knew I'd be asked this at some stage," he answered.

"I went in for the ball... I've been told my whole life to be a more aggressive player, believe it or not.

"I didn't mean to do it. Anyone can say whatever they want… I apologised to Brendan that night, so there's nothing much else to say about it."

But people had already made their minds up about McCann. It was unfortunate for him that he was involved in one of the most high-profile incidents of a fairly eventful summer, when he feigned injury during Tyrone's quarter-final win over Monaghan.

Quite how he came to be thought of as a hatchet man is a bit of a leap, especially given that nobody in Tyrone can recall him ever being sent off throughout his under-age and senior career. As he says himself, he has always been encouraged to be more aggressive.

While McCann might have been innocent of the charges, elsewhere there is a creeping cynicism during this league campaign that leaves us fearing that we are heading for another summer of discontent.

The Competitions Control Committee were sufficiently alarmed by the televised Donegal-Kerry match to hand Neil McGee a one-match retrospective suspension yesterday.

As he and marker Alan Fitzgerald were standing on the square, they got involved in an altercation with McGee gripping Fitzgerald's hand. Fitzgerald's shocked reaction and punch did enough to draw a lot of blood from McGee. Watch it yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Last week, they also imposed £5,000 fines on Armagh and Fermanagh for a rumble in the Athletic Grounds tunnel.

Fermanagh were told by the fourth official to enter the tunnel first. When two of their players did so, they soon found themselves outnumbered in a hostile situation.

This latest fine makes it £13,000 in fines handed out to the Orchard County in the last three seasons. Given their county board were revealed as the seventh-highest spending county on team preparations last season (forking out £690,000), we can only presume that the revenue streams are flowing freely in Armagh.

On too many occasions, we hear managers blame everything and anything when order breaks down and violence occurs. Quite often, the instant reflex is to blame the referee.

To be able to loftily declare that he 'lost control of the game' is usually the precursor to claiming that he 'made life hard on himself' for not throwing around red cards in the first few minutes.

At some stage, we must stop seeing managers as guardians of the game.

Their loyalty is to their team, to the group of men and women that they are out with every Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday and whatever other windy, wet nights they eat up in the pursuit of their sporting goals.

It is their own personal choice, but when did attempting to win with a bit of class become such an outdated ideal?

Sure, they might prefer it if everything was contested with a true Corinthian spirit, but as Mickey Harte's predecessor Art McRory said in 2001: "There's no point in me putting manner on my boys if the fella up the road isn't putting any on his."

Belfast Telegraph

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