Brolly reiterates Tyrone broadside and calls for debate on cleaning up football
Sunday Game pundit says Mickey Harte must take responsibility and stands over personal criticism of Cavanagh
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte congratulates Stephen O’Neill following the victory over Monaghan at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Joe Brolly has said that he is highlighting cynical fouling by Tyrone in order to create momentum behind initiatives to clean up football.
The controversial Sunday Game pundit and All-Ireland medallist with Derry further maintained that Tyrone’s play is endorsed by manager Mickey Harte and that he intended criticism of Seán Cavanagh to be personal after the 2008 Footballer of the Year rugby tackled Monaghan’s Conor McManus to prevent a goalscoring opportunity.
“I’m simply articulating what people are going away from matches feeling,” he told this newspaper. “It’s indisputable that Mickey has decided that his team will play this way. Tyrone don’t have 15 rider-less horses. They’re a very well managed, very well organised team.
“Their achievements have been simply astonishing and Mickey Harte deserves all the credit that’s going for that but there is a dark side to it and it’s now permeating other levels.
“I’ve seen it increasingly at games and it is simply not good enough. Everyone accepts that. Tyrone people accept that. They’ve said to me, ‘you’re right in what you say but it’s a personal attack on Seán Cavanagh’.
“I’ve been a passionate supporter of Tyrone and I admire Mickey Harte greatly but this can no longer be tolerated. And it is personal about Seán Cavanagh. Conor McManus thought it was pretty personal when he was dragged down. I’m saying to Seán that ‘as a man, your conduct on the field leaves a lot to be desired’.
“I’m on the record as saying that Seán Cavanagh is a more influential Tyrone player than Peter Canavan. It may well be that he’s the premier footballer of his generation. Not since Maurice Fitzgerald in admittedly a very weak year for football (1997) has someone dominated a series in the way Seán Cavanagh dominated 2008.
“But he is tarnishing his reputation and he’s a role model. It is personal and I’m calling him out on it because it’s a disgrace. I’ve said it to him before: ‘you’re damaging your reputation and that’s not good enough. You’re better than this. Play your football and play it in the right spirit’.”
Brolly’s broadcast comments have drawn sharp criticism from Tyrone and were strongly rejected by Harte after Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat of Monaghan but he denies unfairly focusing on the county. “No-one’s saying that they’re the only team doing this but there’s no point in making an example of weaker counties.
“Tyrone have done it two weeks running and are in an All-Ireland semi-final. I think it’s fair to look at the impact such an influential county is having on the game.
“It was the same last September. It didn’t win me many friends in Mayo but I believed it was relevant to point out their deliberate fouling in an All-Ireland semi-final.”
He reiterated the concern that cynicism was being allowed to flourish in the game at present, a state of permissiveness that Brolly believes is unique in team sports.