Wednesday 21 February 2018

Sean Cavanagh: There was nasty stuff going on from both sides, some of it more personal than others

Neil Gallagher of Donegal, and Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh, tussle off the ball. Both players were sent off by referee Joe McQuillan in an ill-tempered affair at Ballybofey
Neil Gallagher of Donegal, and Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh, tussle off the ball. Both players were sent off by referee Joe McQuillan in an ill-tempered affair at Ballybofey
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh says that both Tyrone and Donegal were guilty of a continued off-the-ball indiscretions, but believes the refereeing team could have taken more preventative action.

Donegal emerged victorious after a feisty encounter in Ballybofey that saw referee Joe McQuillan send both Neil Gallagher and Cavanagh to the sidelines in the second half in a game that threatened to boil over on a number of occasions.

A melee at half-time was inevitable and with a verbal abuse as well as dragging and pulling by both sides, it was more surprising that the game finished with 28 players on the pitch.

Cavanagh, named a full-forward but operating further out the field, said a different approach could have stamped some of the more unsavoury elements out of the game.

"It was on both sides, there's no point in pointing fingers," he told Newstalk's Off The Ball programme.

"There was an awful lot of off-the-ball stuff going on. I think the fact that the refereeing team that was there yesterday just didn't deal with some issues earlier on, it allowed players to push those boundaries more so than what they would normally do.

"If the game was maybe in Croke Park with more eyes on it, but yesterday had the feeling that in a local GAA ground, crowd very close to the pitch, umpires and linesmen maybe weren't pulling things as quickly as they should have been.

"Things quickly got heated. More and more happened and at times it was over-stepped the mark.

The verbal abuse of players was widespread and sledging" has become a feature of GAA in recent years. Cavanagh says it is a difficult element of the game to remove, but argues there are bigger issues to deal with first.

"People are making a big thing out of the verbals and sledging, but I'm not sure how you can fix that. It's nothing more than you would hear from crowds.

"At times from the outside looking in it looks nasty and not something you want to be sending a message to kids watching, or other sports watching. It's intriguing to others.

"It was obviously hot-tempered game because of the importance of it and the local rivalry.

"There was an awful lot of things that went on, some of it more personal than others.

"What probably annoys players more is being held off the ball and not being able to make a run. Not being able to influence a game the way they want to because they are being body checked or being pulled and dragged to the ground.

"No-one wants to see that.

As he has said in the past, Cavanagh argues that it is too much for one man and admitted that McQuillan, who issues 11 card on the day, had at times an almost thankless task.

"I believe referees need help, umpires and linesmen to step in and nip it in the bud. If that happened early on I don't think players would be allowed to do it, and wouldn't do it as they wouldn't be on the field for much longer.

"One person can't make those calls.

The three-time All-Ireland winner joined opponent Gallagher on the side lines after picking up a black card to add to his earlier yellow, but the towering Moy man doesn't believe his final action on the pitch warranted that particular colour.

"I don't understand the black card," he said.

"I didn't think it was cynical at all. Obviously the guy was smaller than me so I front him up to put on a strong hit to dislodge the ball, but sort of nipped inside me and it certainly wasn't cynical.

"I thought at the time he is going to do me here, possibly a second yellow for a high tackle. When I saw the black, I thought there was no cynicism there at all

"The roar went up from the crowd, three or four Donegal players started pushing and shoving me as if I had committed a huge foul. To be honest an awful lot more stuff went on during the game that had gone unpunished.

"It was disappointing, but more disappointing was the fact we were two points down at that stage and weren't able to resurrect it at that stage.

While Mickey Harte's side now must negotiate the qualifier route, Cavanagh says the nature of the performance will stand to the new-look team.

"We know we're not a million miles away. We wanted to prove to that outside.

"But yet again we have fallen short on the big day against our rivals. That's disappointing. It was gut-wrenching in the changing room afterwards.

"We have to take the positives and focus on the qualifiers. Yesterday wasn't a good result, but hopefully it will give some guys some confidence."

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