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Tyrone manager Mickey Harte questions reason for Darren Hughes' sending-off

Mickey Harte and Tiernán McCann at the end of Sunday's quarter-final in Croke Park  

TYRONE manager Mickey Harte has questioned whether his player Tiernán McCann’s actions definitely led to the dismissal of Darren Hughes in last Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.

Harte made clear the Killyclogher player accepts he made a mistake in going down so easily after a slight touch from the Monaghan man as the game entered injury-time. However, the Red Hands boss hit out at RTÉ’s highlights coverage of the match, calling it “pantomime stuff” and suggesting it was “agenda-driven”. Harte also argued the incident “wasn’t the most serious thing that happened in the game” and that “it had no bearing on the outcome”.

McCann fell to the ground after Hughes tousled his hair and referee Marty Duffy showed the Monaghan man a red card seconds later. The incident led to a storm of criticism of McCann on TV, radio and social media, but Harte queried if the player’s dive was the real cause of the sending-off:

“I don’t know if anyone can clarify at this stage: what was the red card issued for to Darren Hughes," asked Harte. 

"Now, he had taken out Colm Cavanagh just before that and the referee was going to do something. Does anybody know for sure it was the Tiernán McCann incident that influenced him [Duffy] to give the red card or would he have given a red card anyway?

“No-one has stopped to decide was that fact or not… nobody seems to have considered that possibility. A wee bit of clarity is needed before people jump to conclusions, if indeed Tiernán’s actions had anything to do with the sending-off. It may not have at all – or, if that is the case, it would be very easy to rescind the red card."

Asked if he was disappointed with what McCann had done, Harte replied: “I’m more disappointed in the furore that has happened as a result of it.

“I’ve spoken to the young man and he said himself, of course you make mistakes and he would react differently if he had to do it again. He’s accepted that and I accept that from him. But it wasn’t the most serious thing that happened in the game on Saturday and I don’t see why it should get such overkill attention…

“Is that worse than getting a punch to the back of the head when you’ve gone down to the ground? [as happened to Tyrone captain Seán Cavanagh midway through the second half]. I ask the question: which is worse? Ultimately, if the man who lifted his hand to him [McCann] hadn’t lifted his hand, would there have been a different outcome? Of course there would. Everybody must take responsibility for what happened, not just leave it all on the shoulders of Tiernán McCann.”

Harte also turned his attention to some of the pundits who lambasted McCann, commenting: “You have other people suggesting that this is such an awful blight on the game yet they, when they were playing, were involved in things of a much worse nature than that.

“I wonder where did they get their squeaky-clean persona? Or did they forget what they were like when they were playing? It’s doing a disservice to analysis to call it that. There’s obviously an agenda there – the agenda is more important than accuracy.”

Tyrone’s management and players have not spoken to RTÉ for several years now and it was put to Harte that some in the county feel that boycott leads to harsher assessment of his players by that particular broadcaster, to which he responded: “If it does, it just adds to the poor reflection of them. If that’s the way they operate, then for people to be taking such high moral stands, they’d want to look at themselves.

“If they took a look at the coverage of another channel [Sky Sports], which covered it well live, and look at some real analysis, not pantomime stuff, agenda-driven, then they would see that there was much more to that game than what they decided to home in. There were 32 points in a game between two Ulster teams, some great scores, from what’s supposed to be the dourest province around.”

Harte confirmed centre half-back/sweeper Joe McMahon may require surgery on the groin problem that forced him off inside eight minutes last Saturday, which is likely to rule him out of the semi-final against All-Ireland champions Kerry on August 23.

“He may need a little bit of surgery, but that may be sorted out this week, if possible. That would put him in the doubtful category for the semi-final,” he said.

Joe’s younger brother Justin proved a very able replacement against Monaghan, but Harte concluded: “It’d be nice to have both of them.”

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