Thursday 19 April 2018

Tomás Ó Sé: I'd be embarrassed to react like Tiernan McCann, but he shouldn't be judged on one incident

Monaghan players Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus in a tussle with Tyrone players Ronan McNamee and Tiernan McCann
Monaghan players Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus in a tussle with Tyrone players Ronan McNamee and Tiernan McCann

Tomás Ó Sé

A story about Tommy Doyle came into my mind this week as the furore over Tiernan McCann and Tyrone gathered breakneck pace.

When conversations about tough, hard Gaelic footballers take root, Doyle might only get fleeting mention.

But in Kerry his toughness was always renowned. His colleagues on that great team of the '80s revered him for it. Half-mad, they thought, for the manic intensity he had about him that others just couldn't summon.

The story goes that he was cleaved this day against Dublin and hit the deck where the impact cracked three ribs. He was grunting and roaring in pain on the ground when, suddenly, he hopped up and delivered a galvanising battle-cry.

"No f****** way will they bate me today."

He roared with pain as he ran and he gasped for breath. But he played through the pain barrier. I'm sure every county can point to their own Tommy Doyle, players that took their medicine and got on with it. I thought of Doyle hauling his broken ribs off the floor when I watched back on McCann's fall last weekend.

The young man is a fine talent, a nugget of energy and pace that Mickey Harte has unlocked this summer who has been pilloried enough this week. I don't intend to add to that now.


Simulation hasn't been a major problem for the GAA - it doesn't exist at all in hurling - but it is becoming more and more prevalent.

Michael Shields looked foolish this summer when he threw himself down in Killarney after minimal contact with Paul Geaney, our own Aidan O'Mahony looked foolish when he did something similar in Croke Park years earlier.

There is nothing worse than to see a player being hit somewhere else but dropping to the ground clutching his face like he's been shot. Personally, I'd be embarrassed and I'd like to think I have never done it in my life.

I've played with and against Mahony and Shields for long enough to know the type of characters they are. They're not sneaky at all. I don't know McCann but he shouldn't be judged on one incident. Give the guy a chance. In such intense games players get a rush of blood to the head and no one can legislate what goes through their minds at that time.

I've done things on the field of play too that I've regretted. I've dished it out but I'd like to think I've been able to take it. And that's the rub with Tyrone now. That's why people are cranky with them.

My respect for Tyrone football has been deep. They beat us often enough for me to know how hard and honest they could be. I've said that unequivocally before.

They took a bullish attitude to us and to opponents in general. You could always expect a subtle dunt or a shove when you were passing. They had a swagger about them that, too often, portrayed them in the mould of some kind of upstarts. But what other attitude should they have taken?

Now, I accept that you could dissect every game of football and find evidence of cheating but, based on Saturday's game, some of that stock of honesty that had built up with me has to be questioned now.

No doubt the 'Sunday Game' won't have gone down well in Tyrone but let's be straight about it - was there anything wrong with the lads' analysis of the incidents that were highlighted?

Maybe not enough focus was placed on Monaghan because they too have to take responsibility for their role in how this game descended.

Paul Finlay caught Seán Cavanagh with a puck to the side of the head that warranted a red card. Kieran Hughes was running around looking for confrontation with anyone. They lost their way, became frustrated and absorbed in the idea that they were being conned out of the game. That wasn't the case at all.

Tyrone's instinct has been to dig in deep. They thrive on siege mentality, perhaps like no other county. Maybe that stems from their geography, Donegal and Derry to one side, Armagh and Monaghan to another. That's a lot of knives prodding into them, a lot of flanks to defend.

They're used to states of entrenchment because it has probably become a basic tool of survival where they are in Ulster. That's the nature of these things. I don't know the full details of the county's grievance with RTé and wouldn't pass judgment on that either. But you would have thought that some compromise would have been reached before now.

I can't profess to have intimate knowledge of their club scene but you sense that such a game-face isn't solely the preserve of their county teams.

Kerry often face the accusation that they are the most cynical team around. Maybe they are. I don't know. But I have yet to see the evidence presented to back that up. Joe Brolly likes to drive that one. But I say to Joe when he brings it up, 'Where's the proof? Where's that coming from?'

If that is the case, I'd like to know.

I picked up a few red cards in my time but I'd always be conscious of my county's image and feel Tyrone should be conscious of theirs too.

There are things from Saturday's game, apart from the McCann incident, which can't be defended yet some very respected people from the county, notably Peter Canavan who I have great time for, continue to do that. They point to past criticism being used as a stick to beat them with now.

Well, I don't think I've ever been critical of Tyrone before now and I'm only dealing with this game. You simply can't defend the indefensible.

That has surprised me. I wonder if that was Kerry last week, could I defend it? I also wonder if McCann came out quickly after Saturday's game, put his hand up and apologised, would we be looking at a different story now?


My suspicion is that it's something he would have been willing to do. Tyrone can't control what others say but they can control what they do. I felt they should have acted quicker and actually made the running on it. 'The lad made a mistake but he has been big enough to come out and apologise.' Instead it was left to fester for a couple of days and things got worse before there was an intervention.

But maybe that wouldn't feed the 'us against the world' sentiment coursing through the county right now, fuelling them in the same way that the 'puke football' jibes that headed their way in 2003 were a rallying call. The proposed eight-week ban will only harden that conviction. Talk about taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

I don't think it's deserved, I don't think it will stand because, if a yellow card is the normal sanction for such an offence, how can such a weighty suspension be applied now?

I sense the GAA are keen to be seen to be doing something about this issue and it looks like it's the beginning of a real crackdown on this type of behaviour. McCann just happens to be in the firing line. He'll play his All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry though.

Tyrone are an even more dangerous team with a cause. Causes don't win you All-Irelands but to have an added dynamic driving you in the background can bring even greater unity.

The pity for Tyrone is that they played some exciting and effective football for 60 minutes and that has been largely overlooked.

They broke fast, they defended deep and made themselves really difficult to beat. In Mattie Donnelly, they have a footballer for all seasons.

But again maybe it suits that all eyes are being diverted away from the bright glare of such an accomplished performance.

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