Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone back in the firing line thanks to Tiernan McCann's dive

By Peter Canavan

'Sometimes you have to learn the hard way, but when you're in the public eye impressions of your character can be quickly formed and not easily altered' - Brian O'Driscoll, 'The Test'

I'm currently enjoying reading Brian O'Driscoll's autobiography and when I read the above quote, I couldn't help but think of Tiernan McCann.

Since Tyrone's first All-Ireland victory back in 2003 it's fair to say things have never been the same since. That success was a dream come true for many of us and indeed for all those men and women of an older generation who I've met since.

In our part of the world it's fair to say the GAA is part of our DNA. Barney McCann is one of those elder statesmen I refer to. Barney is now enjoying how Tyrone, for so long the also-rans, are now able to compete on the big stage without any trepidation or inferiority complex.

Barney has since witnessed another two All-Ireland triumphs and how proud he must have been last Saturday night to see his two grandsons represent his beloved county in Croke Park.

His generation had become so accustomed to failures and disappointment, when as a county we failed to deliver time after time. Many of those defeats were painful with the scars slow to heal.

I can recall the pounding we took from the Dubs in '84, Kerry's famous comeback in the '86 final when we had one hand on the cup…

And 1995 was even closer when an incorrect refereeing decision cost us dearly. Of course, Charlie Redmond's refusal to walk when sent off gave us grounds for complaint but we lost on the pitch and we left it at that.

Things worsened again in 1996. The mauling we received at the hands and feet of Meath was hard to take but we were told to toughen up and get on with it.

With this as the backdrop, it was with widespread neutral support that we claimed our first All-Ireland crown in 2003. This was added to in 2005 when we defeated Kerry in one of the most enthralling finals in recent decades.

To win an All-Ireland in such a way playing against one of the great Kerry teams and certainly some of the greatest players ever to don a Kerry jersey was so special to us as players and to the county as a whole.

However, as sure as night follows day, jealously follows success. Since then a certain section within the media has tried it's best to undermine the county and key individuals within the county. Mickey Harte, Tyrone's figurehead, was the obvious target.

In my opinion, Harte sits easily alongside some of the greatest managers in our game - O'Dwyer, Heffernan, Boylan. Yet too often, he has been castigated and undermined.

The stance Mickey has taken with our national broadcaster was inevitable and totally justified.

From the manager, the focus has moved onto the players. After the 2013 quarter final victory, Sean Cavanagh was subjected to a level of criticism and personal abuse never witnessed on television before.

For one of our game's greatest ambassadors to be treated in such a way was shocking. What is even more alarming is that it was allowed to happen while others sat by with their mouths shut. On Saturday night at 32 years of age, Cavanagh put in one of his greatest displays in a Tyrone jersey, leading an unfancied team to a famous victory.

Surprisingly, it appeared necessary for some to highlight the flaws in his game rather than emphasise the massive influence he had in Tyrone's victory.

One wonders why such selective analysis appears to be commonplace for Tyrone.

Back in 2013 after Sean's 'outrageous' tackle and the well-publicised uproar that followed, the black card rule was swiftly implemented.

Now on the back of Tiernan McCann's dive, it will be no surprise to see the rules changed once again. There are six categories of playing offences in our rulebook - and feigning injury is not one of them - but from here on in it appears the central competition controls committee will be dishing out eight-week suspensions!

Why the sudden enforcement under the vague term of 'discrediting the association'?

I have no doubt McCann will follow the rules of the association when they are applied in a fair and equitable manner, which is definitely not the case here. The CCCC as law enforcers have an obligation to enforce rules without bias or the perception of bias.

To select one example from this game, never mind the rest of the season, is hard to comprehend.

In the words of James Horan, "the proposed ban is absolute lunacy".

Do we need a new rule? I believe that we certainly do, as feigning of injury has taken place in virtually every game I have witnessed this year. Players are feigning injury to break the obvious momentum that the opposition have. It happens on a regular basis. Some referees are not fooled by it but most are and stop the play as a result. So if the GAA want to deal with it that's ok .

In my opinion McCann will not receive a suspension. But in saying that, he has already paid a high price for his error of judgment.

Social media can be cruel and unforgiving. When it comes to any TV or radio debate on feigning injury, his example will be used for years to come.

That will be plenty of punishment.

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