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McBurney/Declan Bogue

Pictured Declan Bogue

Date: Thursday 12th April 2012

Location: BT Offices

Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Copyright: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney - RAZORPIX


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Why it is cynical to single out Tyrone for foul play in GAA

Declan Bogue


Hands on: Tyrone’s Ben McDonnell and David Clifford
of Kerry scuffle on the ground

Hands on: Tyrone’s Ben McDonnell and David Clifford of Kerry scuffle on the ground

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Hands on: Tyrone’s Ben McDonnell and David Clifford of Kerry scuffle on the ground

Although there are many lines often quoted from Father Ted, one from 'Rock a Hula Ted' in the second series stands apart.

Ted is judging a 'Lovely Girls' competition. With the contestants walking around traffic cones, he says into the microphone, 'Doesn't Mary have a lovely bottom?'

Fr Liam Deliverance gets up from his desk to say, 'Careful there Ted, that might offend the girls', to which Ted immediately rescues the situation by saying down the mic, 'Of course, they all have lovely bottoms'.

Balance. Such a hard thing to strike and in seeking to get there, many often miss the point entirely.

It's for that reason that great political outsider Nigel Farage, who routinely complains about being shut out of 'the debate', has the highest number of appearances on Question Time, an average of 1.8 a year since 2000. He has his regular radio show with LBC too.

Balance has no place in sport and it's entirely lacking when it comes to cynicism in Gaelic football, particularly after last weekend and Kerry ace David Clifford's sending-off in the defeat to Tyrone.

First off, it must be stated that having had a good view of the whole incident at the time from behind the goals, Clifford should not have been given a second yellow card. Referee Fergal Kelly was let down by his umpire, on whose advice he was going on. Clifford's furious reaction was entirely natural.

However, there isn't a fraction of the same outrage when it comes to Peter Harte's second yellow in the same game under similar circumstances when he and Paul Murphy got into a wrestling clinch and were rewarded with a booking each.

Yet it is Tyrone, once again, who stand accused of outright cynicism.

They are guilty as charged - but so too are all the other teams who have realistic hopes of reaching an All-Ireland final.

Cynicism is now a central element of Gaelic football. It's been there since the first ball was kicked between two opposing teams but now comes with a level of planning and sophistication.

As much as the Red Hands are guilty of it, they have also been sinned against.

Let's go back to the All-Ireland qualifier between Tyrone and Kerry in 2012. In the last 30 minutes, there were 14 occasions where Red Hands players were dragged down by Kingdom opponents following kick-outs. Fourteen. Doesn't that sound a bit high just to be a coincidence?

In that game, Tyrone's Brian McGuigan nudged into the back of opponent Declan O'Sullivan, who went down clutching his face.

In a column a week later, an unhappy McGuigan wrote: "The one thing that is going to stick with me is the sight of Declan O'Sullivan smiling and sniggering when he got me sent off."

In 2015, the two sides met on the final day of the National League. The game was drawn but a statistic that jumped out was that Kerry committed 34 fouls to Tyrone's 14. They routinely held their opponents when under threat of a counter-attack in order to get their defence in shape.

The world of punditry has developed a soft language around this stuff; 'cuteness', 'experienced', 'battle-hardened'. All euphemisms to put a nice sheen on the one word that could be a catch-all term; cheating.

The top teams do it and that's what keeps them on top. Winning is the ultimate in sports-washing.

Is what we saw on Sunday any worse than Lee Keegan wrestling Sean Cavanagh to the floor at the start of the second half of the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final, which brought the predictable response of referee David Gough booking both?

Was anything quite as distasteful as the closing moments of the 2017 All-Ireland final when a host of Dublin players grabbed their nearest Mayo opponent and prevented them from moving for the final kick-out of the game?

How about Fermanagh players going down under the slightest bit of contact in their qualifier against Monaghan last year, claiming head injuries?

It's easy to pin stuff on Tyrone. They haven't helped themselves in the past, and remain firmly out of the establishment with their attitude. It suits them that way.

But they are only playing the game as it has formed over the past century, a game in which brutal umpiring decisions allow rule-bending to flourish.

As former Tyrone manager Art McRory said in 2001: "There's no point me putting manners on my boys if the fella up the road isn't putting any on his."

McKenna's return from Australia is another boost for Red Hands

You wait years for a tasty story, such as a bit of conflict between Australian Rules Football and Tyrone GAA, and two of them arrive in the same week.

Less than two days after Red Hands hotshot Cathal McShane finally returned to the county team after considering a move to the AFL and Adelaide Crows, Conor McKenna of Essendon Bombers announced he is on his way home to Eglish.

So advanced is the situation that the club themselves released a statement about a player who has been a success at the Bombers and greatly appreciated by the fanbase.

The statement noted that general manager of football Dan Richardson had said the 23-year-old had the club's full support to return to his native country.

"We have been in lengthy discussions with Conor over recent weeks and we are completely supportive of him returning home to be with his family at this time," Richardson said.

"We remain in constant communication with both Conor and his family and we will continue to provide our support during this period."

You can't help but wonder just what kind of effect that now infamous relegation play-off between Eglish and Edendork last November, in which he played, had on him.

Likewise the conversations he had with McShane in recent weeks. As he was advising McShane that his life may be better in Tyrone, the news came that McShane was being set up in a new career. That would have piqued McKenna's curiosity and stirred up a homesickness.

McKenna is a product of his environment. His family are steeped in the GAA and in Eglish, his mother Sheila having been a renowned camogie player.

"I still suffer a bit with homesickness," he said in December.

"I've always been a home bird and the first couple of years were pretty tough, not really knowing if you want to go back at the end of the year and still kind of struggling to go back.

"The club realise that I've probably struggled with homesickness for the last five years and will probably always struggle with it, it's just something I'm dealing with and trying to make it easier."

If he's home for good, then Tyrone's chances of success will greatly improve. At just 23 and with several years of professional-standard physical preparation behind him in the gym, the chances are that he won't take long to get back into the swing of Gaelic football.

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