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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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Will fines change anything after half-time brawl between Tyrone and Dublin?

Declan Bogue


Pitching in: Mickey Harte, Dessie Farrell and referee Cormac Reilly

Pitching in: Mickey Harte, Dessie Farrell and referee Cormac Reilly

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Larry McCarthy

Larry McCarthy

�INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

Pitching in: Mickey Harte, Dessie Farrell and referee Cormac Reilly

Gathered in the Healy Park press box on Saturday night, the eyes of the various dishevelled GAA journalists were on the ball long before the game between Tyrone and Dublin started.

This is most unusual. Usually, journalists spend the bit of downtime before a match typing out team details, scrolling through Twitter, complaining about the lack or quality of sandwiches or generally either picking on each other or bad-mouthing somebody not in the room. In the main, it's the last one.

But this time, all eyes were on referee Cormac Reilly as he repeatedly tossed the size five O'Neill's football in the air. Each time it descended, a hush fell over the press box, followed by a long 'Ooohhhhh' when it hit generous puddles of water with a splat.

There was no way this could be played. Already, some Dublin journalists were broaching the tricky issue of where they might stay overnight, with the game already re-fixed for Pomeroy the next day in their minds.

"So, what are you cooking me tonight?" they would begin in that wink-wink, nudge-nudge way that we all ask each other for something, just prising the door open wide enough to fit your boot in the jamb.

The head shaking of Reilly gave it away. The pack of GAA writers, suddenly experts in the field of body language, were convinced it was off - until it wasn't. Peter Harte leaving his own sister's wedding to play in the game would not, in fact, be in vain.

There's no way the game should have gone ahead. It was, as Dublin manager Dessie Farrell correctly stated, a player welfare issue.

"I referenced that at the start to the referee that the welfare of the players was paramount, but ultimately he made the call on it and the game went ahead. There was no significant injury, thankfully," he said.

"We were just going to play no matter what the decision was.

"A GAA official said to me that only for the TV being here, the game would not go ahead. It was the same for both sides. It is not ideal but, ultimately, we got through the 75-80 minutes and the result at the end of it wasn't Dublin's."

The claim that a GAA official told him it wouldn't have been played only for the presence of the TV cameras and live broadcasts from RTÉ and Eir is an interesting one, until you actually consider that the 'GAA official' is a very broad term indeed.

We suspect that anyone in a hi-vis jacket within half a mile of the famous tunnel on the night could be termed 'GAA official', but even if there were 500 of them, they wouldn't have stopped the outbreak of fisticuffs at half-time.

Ultimately, that incident will be what the game is remembered for. The result, aside from another two points that will probably keep Tyrone safe in the top flight for another year, was nice, but the row was the real meat on the bones.

This was what could be described as a candy floss win. It tasted so, so good to the Tyrone support, especially after they were fired up by the fight and the spirit shown on the pitch, though it has no long-term nutritional gain.

However, it is a league win in a monsoon. If and when these two sides meet in the summer, their teams will be significantly stronger and the conditions will make for a different game entirely.

But back to the row.

In October 2018, the Ulster Council launched a campaign around the issue that 'One Punch Can Kill', to warn of the dangers of violence between teams.

The timing was perfect. Around that time, there was an ugly melee involving Tyrone and Armagh Under-20 teams, while grainy mobile phone footage also captured ugly rows between Stewartstown and Strabane in the Tyrone Club Championship and Ballinderry and Slaughtneil in a Derry Reserve Championship match.

Former Tyrone player Enda McGinley, who deals with serious trauma in his medical job, said: "Everyone has heard of the one-punch fatalities and they are shocking incidents.

"But all you have to do is catch one person correctly and you can do massive damage.

"Nowadays, with boys having eight, nine or 10 years of strength training behind them, the power in those punches is much greater than before, if they are being thrown with intent.

"And the one area that never gets any stronger is your face and bones, your skull and brains."

McGinley is a straightforward analyst who has a talent for arriving right at the heart of an issue in an instant, but that last line strikes anyone as chilling.

Omagh town is a place that has actually had two incidents of one-punch killings in the last decade, occurrences that robbed two families of young men and left devastation behind.

Those awaiting hefty suspensions for players involved will be disappointed. The video evidence is so inconclusive that it is virtually useless. There may be a fine for each county board, which will naturally hurt Tyrone more than Dublin.

But will any of this change anything?

Rule change is a victory for the little guy at distracted Congress

When it is said that the little man doesn't have a voice in the GAA any more, think of the Raheens club in Kildare.

Rule changes are the source of some of the most contentious debates in GAA affairs in any given year. New presidents come to power and the Standing Committee on Playing Rules is one of the first committees they look to shake up.

These committees take one look at hurling, with all the poetry and propaganda surrounding it, and decide to leave well enough alone before they have someone like Brian Cody barking at them through the newspaper headlines from post-match quotes.

Nobody has the stomach for the likes of that.

So they then turn their attention to football and pick the smallest kid in the playground.

A number of rule changes will be floated in the media to see the prevailing mood, and eventually they could be cobbled together in a document.

The debate will be long and fierce ahead of what used to be called 'a rule-change Congress'. Opinions from managers and players are sought and they will ask why county delegates that have difficulty looking at their own shoes when they are stood up should mess with the ecosystem of football.

It's all part of a torturous process.

Unless you are a club that come up with an idea for a rule change and strike it lucky, that is.

Motion Six, which sought to ban a backpass to a goalkeeper straight after a kickout, came just as tension was unbearable with the vote for the next president going through its various counts.

Only the proposer spoke in favour of the change. Nobody spoke against it.

The Motion had received the minimum attention in the lead-in with meatier matters dominating the discourse.

And it was voted in. Just like that. No fuss, no rancour. It was a victory for the common man, for sure.

But it just goes to show that any time you have a group of county delegates present to decide the future of the GAA, practically everyone can be asleep at the wheel and can also be very easily distracted.

That's before you get into the proportional representation system used to select the role of GAA president. Armagh's Jarlath Burns won the first preference vote alright, but was beaten by the politics of the situation and favours called in that saw him ousted on the fourth count.

Congress. Who needs it?

Despite that, the 40th president of the GAA, Larry McCarthy, needs to be given time to get his thoughts together and implement what he has in mind for the future of the sport. No doubt overseas units will be beneficiaries with McCarthy having been in New York for 40 years.

Club units at home, however, will monitor this closely.

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