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Sean Cavanagh saved the ref from big storm: Peter Canavan

By Colm Keys

Sean Cavanagh may have been the catalyst for one of the big rule controversies of last summer but he spared the GAA another furore with his equaliser in Healy Park on Sunday, his former colleague Peter Canavan has claimed.

Canavan, unveiled as a Sky Sports' GAA anchor football analyst along with Jamesie O'Connor yesterday, said there would have been "uproar" in Tyrone had they lost their Ulster Championship opener to Down in the circumstances.

Down forward Conor Maginn avoided a clear black card in the first half when he deliberately pulled down Mark Donnelly in the Down goalmouth.

Peter Harte converted the subsequent penalty but Maginn scored a second-half goal when he should have been off the field, while Tyrone goalkepeer Niall Morgan was justifiably black-carded. Cavanagh's late equaliser from a free forced a replay which will take place in Newry at 6.30pm on Saturday evening but Tyrone manager Mickey Harte hit out at the consistency of the refereeing and suggested a different approach was being taken to the championship.

Canavan felt there was irony in the fact that it was the man that fronted the GAA's black card tutorials, David Coldrick, who got it wrong on the first big day.

"It was the first high-profile game of the year and they put out the best man that they had in the hope it would pass without major controversy," said Tyrone's 2003 All-Ireland winning captain.

"The fact that it was a draw has maybe not saved his skin, but it has deflected from that a bit. I have no doubt there would have been more uproar about it had Tyrone lost because it would have been on the back of that decision.

"David Coldrick was the man they put up to talk about these rules but it is going to be difficult to implement them."

Canavan has been "sceptical" about the black card from the outset because of the workload it places on referees.

"I felt it was making the job of the referee more difficult. Referees don't need that at the minute and that's the perfect example. This is a high-profile game," he said. "You can imagine in club games there are a lot of referees who don't believe in the idea of the black card to begin with and I know some referees have claimed they don't even bring a black card with them.

"You need it to be consistent and applied to the letter of the law at county games, and already we have seen that is not the case.

"There are two things about Tyrone's first goal. First, where was the advantage rule? If he had played the advantage, Tyrone had a goal. There was a chance the penalty would be missed.

"And if it was a deliberate pull-down, which I think most people think it was, then it should have been a black card.

"If Tyrone had lost that game there is no question it would have had a major bearing – Conor Maginn had a big influence after that. I have no doubt there will be a lot of controversial and similar incidents to that.

"I have no qualms about Niall Morgan's (black card)."

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