Canavan: Cavanagh saved ref Coldrick from a roasting
Late free in Ulster opener papered over fact man in middle had made serious black-card error, writes 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 one of two of Sky Sports GAA anchor football analysts 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 6.30 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 in comparison to the league.
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 it was a draw has maybe... not saved his skin, but has deflected from that a wee bit. I have no doubt there would have been more uproar about it had Tyrone lost that game 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)."
Canavan also believes that goalkeepers who move forward to take frees should be given better protection from the 'sledging' that they routinely face on the way up to take a kick. Morgan was a target for a few 'words' by opponents as he ventured forward on Sunday.
"It's very easy for a referee to deal with that. Stand closer to the free taker and make sure that no one is giving verbals, giving gyp. He has the power to do something.
"No one likes to see that. No one likes to see the crowd jeering an opposing player hitting a free-kick, never mind opposing players. It's a part of the game referees do need to deal with.
"In fairness to David Coldrick he did that, he brought the '45' forward. Opposing teams will soon get the message – if you are going to give a bit of lip to a player hitting a free-kick and it's moved forward, it will soon put an end to it."
Canavan feels Tyrone may have showed a touch of complacency and looked ahead to the next round against Monaghan when they led by seven points with just 15 minutes to go.
"You would have to be concerned. At half-time I don't think anybody saw it. Down didn't look look like a team that were up for the fight," he said.
"At the start, their body language was disappointing. The game turned on Niall Morgan's sending off. Tyrone will be disappointed.
"They took their foot off the pedal when they had the game at their mercy. It's something that will worry the Tyrone management – they have been caught wide open in different games and have allowed the opposition to hurt them and score goals.
"It's not something we'd be accustomed to in Tyrone so that's worrying."
Canavan admitted he was surprised that Ronan O'Neill didn't feature at some stage given his club form with Omagh St Enda's but stressed that Harte had said the team was picked on how the in-house matches went over the last four weeks.
He also believes more of the younger players have to step up and share the leadership clearly provided by Cavanagh and Conor Gormley on Sunday.
"You are expecting more of the younger men to step up to the mantle," he acknowledged.