Tyrone and Mayo sin and are sinned against as the fouling is evenly spread

There were 38 fouls in this game but ultimately it was the winners who profited

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea tackles Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone during the All-Ireland football semi-final, a foul which resulted in a yellow card. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

When defending the tactics of his Tyrone players, specifically Seán Cavanagh, after the Monaghan game Mickey Harte called for a forensic examination of the fouling that takes place in Gaelic football. Of both teams. Not just Tyrone.

So we gave it a go. There were 19 fouls in the opening 35 minutes. Same again in the second half. Tyrone committed 10 in each half. Mayo committed 18 in total.

Fouls, like people, can be very different. It depends where they happen. It depends on their level of severity. Most of all, it depends how close to the posts they occur.

From the 30th minute we kept a particularly close eye on Aidan O’Shea. Considering the two yellow cards he received against Donegal, O’Shea believed another sending off for two cautions would mean his season was over.


A contender for footballer of the year, O'Shea got a yellow card for catching Colm Cavanagh with a high hand and believed the consequences of a mistimed challenge thereafter would be catastrophic.

“Yeah, another one and I would have been out for the final. At half-time I had a little think about it. Just to be careful.” (Turns out he would have only been suspended for two weeks.) Understandably, O’Shea wasn’t so bothered by his 68th-minute withdrawal.

'One stray hand'
"I think they learnt a lesson from the Donegal game! [Considering] the pace some of the boys are going one stray hand and you are gone. Yeah, I was conscious of that in the second half."

To other fouls. Not including the wealth of advantage permitted by the officials, Tyrone made 20. Following Harte’s request for a forensic examination we discovered the true cost of each indiscretion.

Mayo racked up 1-8 of their 1-16 total from nine Tyrone fouls. One was Dermot Carlin dragging down Colm Boyle for the penalty, which replays showed was actually outside the parallelogram. Another six resulted in pointed frees, while two scores came off quickly taken frees to inside forwards.

"We can play at a high tempo so that's what we are looking to do," said James Horan. "We didn't get that tempo in the first 20 minutes . . . but, yeah, we are always looking to move the ball on."

In stark contrast, Tyrone profited to the tune of 0-3 from the 18 frees that came their way. Mayo picked up five yellow cards. Tyrone just the two.

Mayo didn't foul until the 11th minute and 11 of them were too far out the field for Tyrone to turn them into scores. Arguably the most cynical act of all, Donal Vaughan's pulling down on Ciarán McGinley as he was about to shoot for goal, didn't result in a yellow card from Maurice Deegan. Carlin also escaped such punishment despite conceding the penalty.

We go to Mickey Harte as he talked about Lee Keegan’s foot block that denied Ryan McKenna a 50th-minute goal: “I wondered why the ball didn’t go into the net because it was a clear goal chance,” said Harte. “Whether it is a foot block or not it doesn’t really matter as the person who had the chance to make that decision decided it wasn’t.”

"The referee does what he does and he makes decisions in live time. They can be judged retrospectively of how accurate those decisions were but it is not really for us to be speaking about it."

The next question was about injuries to Peter Harte and Stephen O'Neill in the first half. Harte damaged the whole left side of his body, but particularly his pelvic bone, after a ferocious yet legitimate-looking shoulder by Tom Cunniffe after just six minutes. Harte had a different perspective of Cunniffe's collision with his nephew.

“He was going to be instrumental in our game plan. That would annoy me more than anything. The fact that he didn’t even get a free for something that made him have to leave the field on crutches.

“There’s another anomaly, if you like, in the way we are looking at this game through certain lenses. So there you go.

“It was his pelvic bone, on his hip and the nerve there, right down his leg and he wasn’t able to go on. That was most disappointing that that happened, and later on when Stevie had to go. Obviously two players at different ends of the spectrum but crucial to our performance on the day. We lost them too soon.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent