Wednesday 21 August 2019

Dick Clerkin: 'Unsightly Tiernan McCann incident personifies petulant and arrogant Red Hand effort'


Tiernan McCann of Tyrone interferes with Stephen McMenamin of Donegal
Tiernan McCann of Tyrone interferes with Stephen McMenamin of Donegal
Harte: Can’t be happy with Tyrone’s display or discipline on Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile

Dick Clerkin

Even if it all turns out to be a sideshow beneath Dublin's ominous drive for five, Donegal and Cavan will serve up a novel Ulster final pairing in a fortnight's time, after two outstanding performances over the weekend.

As a Michael Murphy-inspired Donegal left a rudderless and indisciplined Tyrone team scratching their heads in Breffni Park on Saturday, Cavan produced their best Ulster Championship performance since winning it in 1997, as they eventually overpowered game Armagh in an entertaining contest in Clones.

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At half-time on Saturday, I tweeted that Donegal had produced the best half of championship football this summer as they unexpectedly led by what would turn out to be unassailable seven points at the break.

Cavan pushed them all the way for that honour, however, as they pulled Armagh apart in the opening exchanges with a style of total football that yielded 11 scores from seven different scorers, remarkably, from every line of the pitch. How often has that happened in one half of football?

It provided them with a four-point cushion at the break that Armagh rarely looked like closing.

On the undercard, Monaghan weren't quite as awful as Fermanagh in a game that deserves little mention other to say that Monaghan have a huge amount of work to do if they have any ambitions of returning to Croke Park this summer.

The Monaghan team didn't hang around to watch any of the second game, but for their supporters who did, they couldn't but be impressed by the way Cavan spread the ball around, with an energy, pace and accuracy that seems to be eluding Malachy O'Rourke and his players at present.

Rory Gallagher could have learned a few things also, as the defensive style of play he venomously instructs his players to adhere to from the sidelines was held up in stark contrast to the open and expressive football that Mickey Graham encourages his Cavan players to use.

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Many Fermanagh supporters that I have been speaking to recently won't be sorry if Gallagher's tenure comes to an abrupt end after the spiteful finish to yesterday's dour encounter that saw three Fermanagh players see red in the closing stages.

They have listened to enough ridicule from the media, and more than enough of Gallagher's sideline urgings, for their liking. In their eyes the game has moved on and so should Gallagher if that is all he can continue to deliver with their team. I can't but agree with them.

Similarly, Tyrone fans will still be fuming this morning after the manner of their no-show in Cavan on Saturday evening. A mix of complacency, petulance and arrogance proved their undoing.

This was personified in the unsightly behaviour of Tiernan McCann at the beginning of the second half when he idiotically decided to interfere with Stephen McMenamin's face in full view of the TV cameras.

On his day McCann is one of Tyrone's most exciting players, but he won't be thanked for dragging his county into yet another discipline headwind, just when it seemed that they were starting to win back some admirers around the country.

Having held the Indian sign over Donegal in recent years, you got a sense of lethargic complacency about Tyrone's play on Saturday.

Their key players were largely anonymous, and most worryingly for Mickey Harte was the lack of leadership or aggression around the middle third, where Michael Murphy imperiously controlled proceedings from start to finish.

It would be unfair to write Tyrone off on the back of one bad day out, and I still strongly back them to make it to the 'Super 8s'. However, they will likely have to do so underneath a cloud of unwanted controversy following McCann's needless indiscretion. In the cases of Monaghan and Tyrone, Breffni Park has taken the gloss off a few 2018 All-Star awards already, and both teams badly need their big players to turn up the performance levels in the weeks ahead if they are to have any say in the remainder of this year's championship.

In the cases of Donegal and Cavan, the same venue has put forward a few early contenders for 2019 awards. This is thanks to the positive style of play their respective managers have implemented and which should serve up a hugely entertaining Ulster final.

It is a trend that looks likely to continue for the remainder of the summer across the other provinces based on what we have seen so far.

Football is dead, they said? Ulster says: 'Never, never, never!'

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