Tuesday 17 July 2018

Ciaran Whelan: Tiernan McCann's failure to own up to dive was a mistake

Read Ciaran Whelan's exclusive column every week in The Herald

Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh celebrates winning a free with team-mate Tiernan McCann during the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park
Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh celebrates winning a free with team-mate Tiernan McCann during the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park
Ciarán Whelan issued a public apology in a Herald exclusive after being sent off during a NFL Division 2 clash with Meath in April 2008.

Ciarán Whelan

It has been a strange week, with most of the attention centering on Tyrone's win over Monaghan in Croke Park last Saturday.

While Tyrone put in an impressive performance in accounting for the Ulster champions, most of the discussion focused on their sportsmanship, or more accurately their lack thereof, that was particularly prevalent in the concluding 15 minutes.

That the match was effectively over as a contest by the end of the third quarter didn't stop Tyrone resorting to the tried and tired old tactics of running down the clock with their persistent diving and feigning of injury, thus preventing Monaghan from gaining any momentum.

Of course, the incident involving Darren Hughes and Tiernan McCann was the most embarrassing that we witnessed and McCann has rightly received a fair degree of criticism for his actions.

To say that his behaviour was unacceptable is a massive understatement and as I stated on Sunday night, Monaghan were just as culpable in what was a sad indictment of modern football. It highlights the "win at all costs" mentality that has become endemic in recent years.

I firmly believe that McCann should have offered an apology for his actions in the immediate aftermath of the match as that would have helped curtail the abuse and questioning of his character that has been incessant all week long.

Most fair-minded people would then have said that at least he had 'put his hand up' and accepted that his actions were those of a young, inexperienced footballer who should be cut some slack rather than his name being dragged through the mud.

It may have brought some closure to the controversy rather than what lies ahead of him now in terms of firstly a suspension and then no doubt a hard-fought appeal all the way to the Disputes Resolution Authority which could rumble on close Tyrone's meeting with Kerry.

McCann may have been advised to go public with an apology, but choose to ignore it in the immediate aftermath. Going public could have helped to diffuse the situation.

The length of the suggested suspension seems a touch harsh and on appeal will probably be overturned but it will undoubtedly prove a unnecessary distraction for Mickey Harte and his panel as they prepare for their duel with the reigning All-Ireland champions.

There seems to be a defiance in Tyrone to admit negligence regarding this issue and all that has achieved is to compound matters. No doubt, secretly, Harte may be delighted to have his team under the spotlight as it will enable him to foster that siege mentality that was a feature of his previous All-Ireland winning teams.

For a young lad with a bright football future, it is unfortunate that he will be tainted as a result of one foolish and totally unnecessary action but by not condemning his own behaviour, he leaves himself wide open to criticism.

Naturally, the comments of both myself and fellow analyst Colm O'Rourke on last weekend's Sunday Game have largely garnered support but, of course, we have come in for some vile abuse and criticism via social media from Tyrone who seem unable to see last Saturday's events in an objective light and they seem to relish the thought of an 'us and them' mentality in these matters.

However, there is no chance that I would consider retracting what I said on the night as I strongly believe that those kind of actions are a blight on the game and should be eradicated.

Personally, I have woken up on a Monday morning after a big championship match and recognised that I may have let myself down on some occasions.

Ciarán Whelan issued a public apology in a Herald exclusive after being sent off during a NFL Division 2 clash with Meath in April 2008.

I have apologised whenever I felt it was warranted both publicly and to certain individuals. There is a huge difference between the odd 'rush of blood to the head' that I was sometimes guilty of and the more systematic and cynical offerings that is a dark feature of this Tyrone team.

It has been suggested in Tyrone GAA circles that RTE have an agenda against both Harte and Tyrone football and that we relish any opportunity to try undermine them.

That is complete nonsense and to suggest that we feel under pressure to be more controversial now due to Sky Sports' coverage on our national games is equally off the mark.

It is also classically Irish not to debate the substantive issue of what went on but to form a lynch mob to try obstruct those whose views have made their blood boil the most.

Thankfully, RTE give their analysts a platform to air genuine views on the relevant talking points and although quite a lot of what happened last Saturday evening is common to quite a number of matches, Tyrone appear on the radar more often than others due to their consistent flouting and bending of the rules.

To see that happen and not to comment would be a form of negligence on my behalf and I am more than happy to stand by my strong stance. I'd like to think that I can carry on the age-old tradition of discourse and debate on our wonderful national games.

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