Saturday 22 October 2016

Eugene McGee: Stop whingeing and childishly blaming opponents for red cards

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

'When a veteran like Harte and Dublin manager Jim Gavin (pictured) start complaining, it rings a bit hollow.'. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
'When a veteran like Harte and Dublin manager Jim Gavin (pictured) start complaining, it rings a bit hollow.'. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

One of the ironic moments of recent times came in the closing stages on Saturday as Mayo played ring-a-ring-rosie with the ball in front of 80,00 people as they clung desperately to their one-point lead.

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Then we heard booing from the Tyrone fans at what was going on. What sprang to mind was the expression, 'the pot calling the kettle black' as I thought of the times Tyrone, and other counties too, engaged in the same carry-on.

What Stephen Rochford's men were doing was legal, and acceptable in the circumstances because had Tyrone nipped in for a goal - an unlikely event given the way their forwards were playing - then this Mayo team would have disintegrated.

But they used their heads, retained possession and suddenly emerged as really genuine Sam Maguire contenders, probably more than in any of the past four seasons.

Tyrone can have no complaints about the result, given that they only managed two points from play in the second half, and only four in the first, whereas Mayo scored nine times from play.

That did not stop Mickey Harte from complaining afterwards, as is the norm nowadays from losing managers, although Donegal's Rory Gallagher was an exception after his side's defeat to Dublin.

This thing of blaming opponents because one of your players is sent off is a childish excuse.

All the great forwards have been targeted by opponents, and it is the same in every other form of football around the world. The vast majority of such players that I have seen accept this as the norm and take counter-action, by being restrained, not matching fire with fire, and if they get the chance punishing the targeters by getting more scores and winning for their team.

Diarmuid Connolly and Sean Cavanagh, two of the best players in the game, did not follow that course of action and rightly paid the penalty. When a veteran like Harte and Dublin manager Jim Gavin (above) start complaining, it rings a bit hollow. That's the reality lads!

The bold decision to place Lee Keegan(below) on Cavanagh must have caught Tyrone on the hop and it was the winning or losing of this game.

In every match this year, especially the Ulster final, Cavanagh was pivotal when his county was in trouble. Not this time, as Keegan - who looked like a terrier chasing a Rottweiler - gave an exhibition of marking, old style.

I have always claimed that even in the modern game, the best players can be marked out of it by a dedicated opponent whose mind is set on that one task.

That is exactly what Keegan did but as a bonus, and what a bonus, he also scored two of the last three Mayo points, including the winner.

But this was no one-man show, and Aidan O'Shea's return to top form was also crucial as he delivered a wonderful all-round performance that set up several scores for colleagues.

O'Shea lost the run of himself somewhat in the Fermanagh game, but he has gradually returned to form and got his mental shape corrected for Saturday's game.

Follow suit

Would that others would follow suit instead of whingeing.Tyrone's reputation is largely based on their heroics of the previous decade and the fact that they won the U-21 All-Ireland last year.

Having watched them four times this year, I stated that while Tyrone have the makings of a top-class team, they do have a long way to go.

In the old days they had leaders all over the field, a much better set of forwards and a steely determination that often undermined better opponents. There was little sign of those qualities this year, and they have some way to go before emulating their former champions.

For Mayo, a gap has now been created into a dream scenario that many had not expected but they cannot be depending on one or two players or a slice of good fortune from here in.

But this was definitely, in the circumstance of the past eight months, one of their best performances in recent years.

Tough game will stand to Dublin

The problems, not of their own making, that Dublin have had this year is that they did not have even one particularly challenging game in league or championship to this point.

As reigning All-Ireland champions it was inevitable that a state of over-confidence would affect at least some of their players and it showed against Donegal at times on Saturday evening.

A bit of carelessness, sporadic outbreaks of personal indiscipline and some untypically wayward passing left Dublin struggling towards the final quarter against a team that is quite clearly well past its sell-by date.

Two players picking up red cards and one getting a black contradict Jim Gavin’s long held philosophy of Dublin being an extremely well-disciplined team.

Gavin may, like his Tyrone counterpart Mickey Harte, argue the nebulous point that Diarmuid Connolly is being ‘targeted’ by opponents but that is nonsense. As stated above the best forwards are always targets for special aggression but the very best always stay on the playing field.

I was disappointed to see the manager giving Connolly a pat on the back as he left the field but then most managers do the same. It is as if the person who commits a foul worthy of being sent off receives the imprimatur from the manager, which seems to condone the offence.

Saturday’s result will set the scene for Dublin to be back to their best for the semi-final clash with Kerry. The stakes will be as high as ever because Dublin’s numerous wins in the past few years have never included a single two in a row.

Irish Independent

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