Tyrone end Dublin’s unbeaten league record

Mickey Harte’s men edge Croke Park thriller

Croke Park, under the big spotlights, two old rivals feuding for the best seat in the Allianz Football League, 20,000 in attendance, and not the ideal time to be drawing attention to the so-called cynical foul – not with the GAA facing up to "crime number one" at next weekend's Congress in Derry.

The problem, in those words of Football Review Committee (FRC) chairman Eugene McGee, is that some teams are deliberately committing this crime, still getting away with it, which is where their black card proposal comes in.

Now, neither Dublin nor Tyrone were pointing the finger in the aftermath of Saturday evening’s showdown.

But as Tyrone held on grimly to their one-point lead, ending Dublin's four-game unbeaten run in the process, they had three players booked in the last three minutes for fouls which certainly bordered on the cynical.

Strong chance
The result stands up on its own merits, Tyrone the better, smarter team over the 70 minutes, although with a strong chance now these teams will meet again before this year's league is out, perhaps even the final itself, Dublin don't come away overly worried, especially as Bernard Brogan – scorer of 2-28 in their last four games – was given the night off.


Dublin were actually in a winning position going into the last quarter, Paddy Andrews edging them one point back in front, before Tyrone outscored them five points to two in the time that remained.

Then, as Tyrone appeared to play down the clock and ensure Dublin didn’t get any late scores, Sean Cavanagh, Mark Donnelly, and blood substitute Aidan Cassidy all made the sort of tackles that earned them a yellow card. Three other Tyrone players were booked earlier, as were three Dubs, although it was not a dirty game.

Yet when all this was put to Mickey Harte, that under black card rules players might have left the field early, the Tyrone manager got a little worked up - especially at the suggestion that some teams actually plan things this way. “You mean us, as Tyrone? Or any team could?

“I believe that referees have a yellow card to deal with the personal, deliberate foul. And I think that will suffice.

“If it happens that somebody commits one in the last minute of the game, that’s the exception, not the rule. If somebody commits one of those throughout the game then they’re walking on thin ice. So, I think there is enough deterrent there to stop people from doing it.

“If on the odd occasion it does happen that way, that’s disappointing alright. But I don’t think that’s going to be the rule, but the exception, and I don’t think we should change the rules for the exception.

"I would love someone to describe to me how a team goes out to choreograph their fouling. It's impossible to choreograph your tackling, never mound your fouling. So I think that's a myth. . . . . . ."

More placid
Dublin manager Jim Gavin was more placid when addressing the issue, although not entirely disguising his dissatisfaction, either: "Well, teams are playing within the rules. That's the first thing I'll say. The referee can only implement the current rules, as they stand. I have already endorsed the work of the FRC, so it's up to each county now, to make their call on that.

“But we’d be disappointed to lose, definitely, after such a long battle in the game, and going a point ahead, again, in the second half. Not to kick on from that was disappointing, but I think we will learn an awful lot.”

Gavin made five late changes because of “knocks or fatigue”, Rory O’Carroll undergoing minor surgery on his ankle, while Brogan suffered a knock on his knee against Kildare. Ciarán Kilkenny was injured and replaced after just six minutes.

Dublin’s still started the first half well – going 1-3 to 0-2 in front after 15 minutes. Kevin McManamon created the goal with one of his trademark bustling runs, his shot half-blocked but then finished into the net by Philly McMahon.

Despite hitting 10 wides in the first half, Tyrone went into the break 0-10 to 1-6 in front. They extended this to three points in the next 10 minutes, Sean Cavanagh sending over the best of the points from an acute right angle.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics