Tuesday 13 November 2018

Caught on camera

Tyrone's Ryan McMenamin
Tyrone's Ryan McMenamin
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

As a brief calm descended on St Tiernach's Park in Clones, the crowd drawing breath after a frantic start and the medics using the time to patch up the Donegal defender Paddy Campbell, a lone voice reverberated around the ground from the middle of the field, audible above the silence.

It was the 2007 Ulster semi-final and Tyrone's Ryan McMenamin was using the pause in time to inflict his own brand of psychological warfare on the Donegal players within earshot.

Stepping out from the corner of defence, where he had been so dominant in those opening 20 minutes, McMenamin's message was directed at his own colleagues but was clearly for Donegal's consumption.

The league champions, and recent conquerors of Armagh, were struggling. The ultimate predator for that state of mind wanted his prey to know how much he knew that.

Gesturing to colleagues and clapping his hands he boldly declared the end of Donegal's challenge, there and then.

Laughed

"We have them. We have them. They can't handle it, they can't handle it," laughed McMenamin with that grin that has sent many a chastened opponent's temperature soaring.

Unpalatable as the packaging may have been to Donegal players and supporters alike, McMenamin wasn't wrong. Tyrone finished with a 14-point win, Donegal's season finished in a limp.

It was quintessential McMenamin. The winner. The man who, in his own words, crosses the white line and is the person you don't want to meet. The bete noir of so many gilt-edged attackers who likes to win at all costs and detests losing.

The man who surfaced again in Omagh last Sunday, underlining how three All-Ireland medals hasn't dimmed his enthusiasm for the frontline. Or confrontation.

Oisin McConville was one of the first exposed to the 'McMenamin experience' as he recounted a league match in 2001 in his autobiography 'The Gambler.'

"Nothing makes you focus better than a genuine hatred and nothing gave me a greater reason for genuine hatred than a couple of their backs. I'd heard of their carry-on before but basically McMenamin was just a mouthpiece in that league game in 2001. The guy never shuts his mouth," he wrote.

There are comparables from other sports, those who possess a more plausible, off-field demeanour that belies their 'game face'. Those who recall the on-field alter ego of the former England rugby hooker Brian Moore will appreciate his propensity to 'wind up' opponents.

True to his convictions, McMenamin was in the thick of the 'action' again in on Sunday on a couple of fronts, actions that are likely to land him in some trouble and have once again fuelled the increasingly bitter relationship that has developed between the two best Gaelic football teams around.

If Omagh revealed anything on Sunday, it was that one or the other will win the All-Ireland title later this year and they'll probably never be organising annual games of golf against each other in future years.

The CCCC didn't meet yesterday and are not scheduled to as the committee's chairman, Jimmy Dunne, is currently on holidays.

But, in his absence, a clip of McMenamin appearing to grab Kerry's Paul Galvin in the groin area has apparently been circulated to other committee members who will decide if a charge of misconduct should be laid against him.

The intent may not have been serious but the action is clearly caught on camera and was provocative at the very least, mirroring an incident at the end of the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Cork when Tom Kenny landed a four-week ban for catching 'Cha' Fitzpatrick with the butt of his hurl in that sensitive area of the body.

Ironically, referee Jimmy White issued a black book to Galvin, a clear suggestion that he felt the Kerry player was over-reacting when the cameras would indicate differently.

The CCCC will take consensus from committee members as to whether they should ask White to review this incident, which took place within yards of his one of his linesman. If White declares satisfaction with the way he handled it then the matter will close.

McMenamin's role in the after-match scuffling was also quite prominent. As the final whistle blew, he tangled with Marc O Se, who gave him the faintest push in the back, triggering 'Ricey' to aim a punch at O Se and engage him at much closer quarters.

Cue Jack O'Connor's involvement and a ripple effect involving nearly all the players as they were leaving the field.

True, as O'Connor observed afterwards, it was "minor stuff." But the overall effect is one of poor presentation again for the biggest game of the weekend and that was unfortunate because they served up some thrilling football.

McMenamin has always had the capacity to 'wind up' and doesn't deny that it is part of his armoury. The then-Dublin manager Paul Caffrey fell into the trap in a league match in 2007 that celebrated Croke Park's first game under lights when he engaged with McMenamin as he made away off the field at the end, having picked up a red card. Dublin lost a tight match and Caffrey drew criticism for taking his eye off things at a critical moment.

McMenamin was far from the sole contributor to an enmity that is clearly growing between these counties.

Kerry know only too well the value of standing up for themselves in places like Omagh on days like this with a team that they have an awful record against.

They have become the template for the best football around but, to their detriment, a more sinister side to the relationship is now developing.

Not for the first time their exit from a field together has ended up in fracas, following on from the half-time incidents in last year's All-Ireland final.

The protagonists escaped censure on that occasion. This time they may not.

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