Belfast Telegraph

Joe Brolly rant row: Sinners Tyrone sinned against

By Declan Bogue

Mickey Harte is not a man who does pressure, but there was a certain edginess as he faced questioning by reporters following Tyrone's All-Ireland quarter-final win over Monaghan.

Asked about the performance of Peter Harte, he answered: "I would love somebody to take a good look at how many times he gets fouled and pulled, just pulling your jersey and holding him back.

"Is that any worse? Is that any less cynical than somebody taking you down just on the spot? Let's get real about all of this.

"Give us a forensic examination of all of this and then we might have a bigger picture instead of what appears to be a certain bias."

It was a justified point. Since the Ulster Championship defeat by Donegal in Ballybofey, Mickey has placed Peter back in the defence after road-testing him in the forwards all year in the McKenna Cup and the National League.

In winning promotion from Division Two in 2012, Peter Harte played as an auxiliary centre-back, bursting forward and participating in attacks.

In the league final against Kildare, Lilywhites manager Kieran McGeeney had identified his threat and every time he generated an attack, his supporting run was blocked or he was taken out of the game.

It was cynical and calculated, but unfortunately for the gem of a player that Peter Harte is, it is something he has become used to.

In Errigal Ciaran's Tyrone club semi-final last year against Carrickmore in Pomeroy, this reporter witnessed his scandalous treatment on and off the ball.

A marker was detailed to hang off him throughout but when he wasn't near the action, he also got hit and thumped.

You have to wonder if Peter Harte loves the game as much as when he was accumulating his impressive skills.

While Sean Cavanagh and Tyrone have been placed centre-stage of the latest fouling controversy in the GAA, unfortunately the debate has been rail-roaded down a celebrity cul-de-sac.

There are those that are offended by a show of passion by Joe Brolly as he expressed his dismay. It's a pity it has come to this. There was plenty of merit in what he said, but as Brolly has acknowledged, the manner in how he said it has left people coldly disposed to the content.

As suggested by Mickey Harte, we reviewed the tape of three of the four quarter-finals to compile the evidence, discounting the Donegal v Mayo whitewash.

Counting the number of black card offences, we found that Tyrone were only one ahead of two other counties.

Unfortunately, they seem to pay the price of being high profile and highly visible.

Cathal McCarron tripped Conor McManus. Conor Gormley tugged the jersey of Neil McAdam, Peter Harte also dragged down McAdam in the closing seconds, and of course there was the Cavanagh offence.

Monaghan would have been culpable for two; Dessie Mone and Kieran Duffy both pulling down Peter Harte.

In that light, Mickey Harte is fully justified in asking about the treatment meted out to his centre-back. Further study would support that.

Dublin and Cork played out a reasonably clean game in the spirit of fair play with only three black card offences, but it hasn't gone unnoticed that Michael Shiels picked the ball off the floor which should have resulted in a Dublin penalty.

Here's the one that will be forgotten though; with Cavan desperately chasing Kerry in the closing minutes, Niall McDermott was taken down by a less obvious and dramatic rugby tackle by Peter Crowley. The great purists of the game were not taken to task.

Tyrone will know the feeling. Just last year they were beaten by a Kerry side in Killarney that pulled Tyrone defenders down as they attempted to build attacks. It was systematic and cynical, but the post-match analysis became a Hello! magazine-style froth feature, simpering over Paul Galvin's tears.

Funny, but that game was screened by TV3. It did not get the RTÉ treatment, so we may never know how they might have reviewed it.

There have been ludicrous calls for Joe Brolly to lose his role as match analyst. Then, there are the ranks of earnest former players pursuing careers in the media – some patently unsuited to it – who feel they can offer something different.

What these people do not understand is that you have a sport wrapped up and presented to the public as entertainment. And entertainment is what keeps the casual viewer interested.

Tyrone have been sinned against this summer, no players more so than Stevie O'Neill and Peter Harte.

But the sheer coincidence of Sean Cavanagh being booked on three consecutive televised matches won't be an easy stain to shift.

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