Nothing to see here as Harte and Farrell brush off tunnel fracas

Tyrone and Dublin players came to blows at half-time in a feisty encounter at Healy Park

Tyrone’s Conor Meyler and Dublin’s James McCarthy scuffle during the heated Allianz Football League Division One encounter at Healy Park. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Tyrone’s Conor Meyler and Dublin’s James McCarthy scuffle during the heated Allianz Football League Division One encounter at Healy Park. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

By Jorge standards it wasn’t exactly a storm. Still there was no escaping the half-time disturbance that suddenly whipped up during Tyrone’s victory over Dublin at Healy Park on Saturday night.

There was nothing between the teams – Dublin 1-2, Tyrone 0-5 – and likewise as they both sprinted for the tunnel on the half-time whistle: who could blame them? They’ve had stormy games at Healy Park over the years, only nothing like this, a game as much about playing the reckless wind and vicious rain as it was each other.

For whatever reason players and backroom members from both teams suddenly got stuck into each other, caught by the TV camera positioned at the halfway line at the opposite end of the pitch. Punches were definitely thrown, only it was hard to tell exactly who was throwing them.

When they re-emerged for the second half, Tyrone midfielder Pádraig Hampsey was immediately black-carded by referee Cormac Reilly, and that may well be as far as it goes, given he was seen to deal with the issue at the time. The GAA’s Central Competitions Committee are entitled to review video evidence, although neither Tyrone manager Mickey Harte nor Dublin’s Dessie Farrell reckoned there was anything more in it.

“I didn’t see too much, just a lot of bodies in a confined space,” said Harte. “Maybe that was a good thing, that nobody could do any damage to each other.”

Asked if he expected any further investigation Harte said: “I wouldn’t expect to lose anybody. We were the only one to lose a man at half-time, at all. Pádraig Hampsey got a black card out of it. We got a hint of it at half-time. Nobody else go anything, so I think we’ve served our punishment.”

For Farrell, it seemed, the disturbance was equally minor: “All I will say is that we came up here to play football and that was needless what happened at half-time. I could not see it. There were a hundred people in the tunnel ahead of me.”

Of more concern to Farrell was the result, Tyrone’s 1-10 to Dublin’s 1-7 inflicting a first league defeat of 2020: “You don’t like to lose, full stop. It was a feisty affair but it is not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination but it is just your competitive instincts, you don’t like coming out the wrong end of those duels.”

It was far from tempestuous however, certainly not compared to the infamous Battle of Omagh in 2006, which include two second half brawls between Tyrone and Dublin, one of which spilled over onto the sideline, with four players sent off, nine later charged,

No player saw red on Saturday night, and it wasn’t particularly stormy play: Niall Scully was also black-carded for Dublin in the second half, the only other sin-binning, Dublin getting three yellow cards. The question of how – or why – the game went ahead will also linger. None of us in attendance could recall worse conditions for football, Reilly carried out a final inspection 30 minutes before throw-in, somehow deeming Healy Park fit to play. Teresa Mannion would not have approved, and only 3,850 hardy souls made their way inside.

“Well I wasn’t the one to make the decision,” said Harte. “The referee was happy, the officials were happy, that is was safe, so who am I to argue with that? Absolutely, the conditions were the same for both teams, and once the match officials declare it playable, none of us have any arguments. We’re asked our opinion, and I’d say there was more reluctance on Dublin’s part, but they said they’d travelled, were ready to go. And would go. And they did. But again the only man who could make the decision was Cormac Reilly, and he did.”

Farrell appeared a little less easy that the game went ahead: “A GAA official said to me that only for the TV being here the game would not go ahead. It was the same for both sides. It is not ideal buy ultimately we got through the 75/80 minutes and the result at the end of it wasn’t Dublin’s. I referenced that at the start, to the referee, that the welfare of the players was paramount but ultimately he made the call on it and the game went ahead. There was no significant injury, thankfully.”

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