If Cork manager Conor Counihan was less than impressed with referee John Bannon at the half-way stage of yesterday’s All Ireland football semi-final at Croke Park, then his Tyrone counterpart Mickey Harte was considerably more disenchanted with the long-serving Longford official at full-time.
Counihan, clearly reluctant to be drawn into discussion on the controversial dismissal of his midfield ace Alan O’Connor in the 29th minute following his second yellow card, contented himself with the age-old observation that “these things happen in football” before adding: “We had to deal with the situation in which we found ourselves, but I am very glad that we achieved a level of performance that got us over the line.”
Counihan’s diplomacy was rather in contrast to Harte’s more caustic analysis of Bannon’s overall display which he clearly felt had some impact on the outcome.
“I have always felt strongly about what I see as a lack of consistency in refereeing and in this game, things were refereed in a different manner to which they might have been on another day,” stated the disappointed Tyrone boss pointedly.
Yet while several of Bannon’s decisions in the second-half in particular left him cold, Harte admitted that his side had never been able to trim Cork’s advantage back to “manageable proportions,” as he put it.
And he went on: “Our finishing let us down, but then we found ourselves under pressure when shooting and as well as that we had to shoot from distance too often.”
The loss of Sean Cavanagh from the Red Hands starting-line up because of a stomach upset handed Cork a further boost and Harte was left to rue the absence of the 2008 Footballer of the Year who, although he went in as a late substitute, was clearly feeling the effects of his eleventh-hour illness.
“He is a key player for us and we needed him badly from the start, particularly against a side like Cork with so many big players all over the park,” said Harte.
“Still, I thought my boys worked hard and I cannot fault them, but you would have to say that Cork were better and I wish them well for the final.”
Counihan, conscious that his side could possibly now be meeting Kerry for a third time in the Championship this year should the Kingdom overcome Meath next Sunday, is adamant that the Rebels will nonetheless have to show a further step-up if they are to regain ‘Sam’ for the first time in 19 years.
“This Cork team has a lot of good qualities, but we now have to reach our ultimate goal,” added Counihan.
“I was very happy that we did not lose either our shape or our focus when we were down to fourteen men. We showed a lot of heart and determination and dug deep to get our just rewards on the day.”
Man of the match was Cork skipper Graham Canty, although he was jostled closely by several of his colleagues including Pearse O’Neill and John Miskella for the honour.
Canty said: “We knew it was going to be very tough against Tyrone, but our good start stood to us. We were disappointed to lose Alan in those circumstances, but that helped to bring out the best in us.”