Philly McMahon dismisses controversy over eye-gouging incident

‘This is Gaelic football, we get stuck into each other and we shake hands after it’

Philly McMahon tackles Kieran Donaghy: “It probably did look bad. But there was no intention whatsoever.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Philly McMahon tackles Kieran Donaghy: “It probably did look bad. But there was no intention whatsoever.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The last place Philly McMahon needs to be on the morning after an All-Ireland final is in the lobby of the Dublin team hotel, mingling with a few leftover supporters, before inviting us over to chat about you know what.

But then McMahon has never ducked away from anything in life, and he’s not about to start now. Nothing is off limits and certainly not what happened between himself and Kieran Donaghy towards the end of Sunday’s victory over Kerry. McMahon knows the accusation of eye-gouging is coming, and he confronts it straight on when it does.

He has never drank or smoked in his life either so there’s no happy hangover at play, no slapdash loosening of the tongue. Yes, McMahon made contact with Donaghy’s face, and yes, it involved his left hand. But he insists it was in no way intentional – and certainly not any deliberate gouging.

“I don’t have to say how the conditions were on Sunday,” McMahon says, “and when the ball dropped, I went in to put my hand in. There was no intention to go for his face.

“He [Donaghy] is a big man to get around, you know? I couldn’t even see where the ball was, the second time I went in. But no, there was no intention there, and I’m sure the officials saw that as well. And look, this is Gaelic football, we get stuck into each other when the whistle is blown and we shake hands after it.”

Fall-out

The Sunday Game

“Yeah, I saw a little bit of it on The Sunday Game and yeah, it probably did look bad. But again there was no intention whatsoever. If you look at it, the ball drops and I put my hand in to try to grab the ball. The ball slipped out of his right side and I tried to go in again with the left hand. That’s what happened.

“And there were loads of incidents on the pitch on Sunday, but it’s unfortunate that mine always gets brought up. But it’s a part of the game and I have to accept it. I’m talking about something that if I did connect with his face, I didn’t intentionally do it. I should be talking about keeping one of the best footballers in decades scoreless.”

He talks about that too – about keeping Colm “The Gooch” Cooper scoreless – but before that McMahon suggests that defending by its very nature means standing up to your man.

“As defenders we have a tough job, we’re reacting to the forwards, constantly chasing somebody. And when we step up and we mark, we look the man in the eye and we’re saying, ‘We’re going to war today, me and you, and let’s see who comes out on the top end’. That’s what I love about it, and it really does make you want to be better as a defender.”

Respect

“Someone joked to me last night that Cooper should have got man of the match, because he kept me to one point. But look, he’s one of the greats of the game. But I don’t think Colm Cooper has been a great footballer playing defence. It was one thing I thought about, going into the game, when I was doing my homework, that I would put him on the back foot and see what he is like defensively.

“And when I was told two days before the game that I’d be marking Cooper I was absolutely delighted. It is an honour to be told you’re going to mark one of their key forwards, and a man like Cooper is someone I would have high respect for.

“Yeah, there was a little bit of a stand-off at the end. We spoke then and I said, ‘This is the way I play football, this is what you have to do to win a game . . . I am going to do what I can to beat you and you are going to do what you can to beat me’. And he said, ‘Fair enough’ and then we shook hands. He is a very humble player, he said well done and we went our separate ways.”

Success

“I would never have thought in a million years that I’d have three All-Irelands,” he says, “never mind even playing for Dublin. It’s a massive thing and I’m proud to say that I’m from the Ballymun area, and hopefully we’ll have more lads coming from my area and doing the same thing.

Struggle

“It’s the people who are struggling for help, probably the people that are struggling with the law, maybe people who are struggling with drug addiction. Whatever it is that they’re struggling with in their lives, hopefully we can provide something that will get them back on the road to having a career path.”

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