GAA Football

Fall-out from Tyrone row rumbles on in Off The Fence

There were ugly scenes at Healy Park on Friday night during the intermediate championship clash between Strabane and Stewartstown
Neil Loughran

FOR one reason or another, Tyrone football has featured in these pages quite a bit over the past couple of months. Since the county team’s run to the All-Ireland final, there was barely even time to catch breath before the club championship was grabbing headlines – on the front page and the back.

The scenes from Friday night’s free-for-all between Stewartstown and Strabane were bad enough, but then images of Sean Cavanagh’s battered and bruised face led to a steady stream of social media side-taking, replete with a fistful of rival voice messages doing the rounds on WhatsApp (Stephen Ward has a lot to answer for).

And it is with the fall-out from the weekend, the confrontational scenes at Healy Park in particular, that we begin...


“I WOULD like to comment on the behaviour of a lot of guys masquerading as sportsmen during the weekend there,” said one unnamed caller.

“Now, what I want to know is; what's the difference between a person getting assaulted on a street and getting assaulted on a field? I think the half of these referees - they don't know the rules, if there are any rules attached to it, which I have various notions that they don't.

“It's time the GAA authorities begin to clean the game up a bit. Would parents of young children want to put their kids into some of the situations that occurred in Tyrone during the weekend?”

They are certainly scenes none of us want to see and, should any parties be found guilty, then the punishment must be strong enough that it acts as a deterrent across the board.


STAYING in Tyrone for the time being, somebody called ‘JJ’, claiming to be from Cookstown, was none too impressed with what he chose to take out of The Irish News’s build-up to this month’s All-Ireland final between the Red Hands and Dublin.

“Just a line to let you know what I think of your sports analysis this last few months,” said ‘JJ’.

“It was all Tyrone. Archer: Nobody likes us. Madden: Tyrone to win by two points. O'Kane: Ten ways to beat Dublin. None of your analysts could see that Dublin had the better footballers, or were they afraid to call it?

“Maybe they were afraid to fall in (out?) with Tyrone followers and get stick. You should call them agony aunts. Somebody said that Tyrone GAA had bought over the Irish News.”

Was somebody called ‘JJ’? Thanks for your thoughts, but I can’t help but feel you’re way wide of the mark here if you are suggesting we acted as Tyrone cheerleaders. In his column the Wednesday before the final, Kenny Archer wrote: 'The much more likely joy that would greet another Dubs' success is easy to deal with, entirely expected as it would be.' Cahair O’Kane was suggesting ways in which Tyrone might look to close the gap from the previous year – there was no suggestion he felt they could, or would, do it. In his big match preview, Andy Watters tipped Dublin to win by five points.


MOVING on, there was some correspondence in the wake of the previous weekend’s Ulster club outrage (wonder what this weekend’s will be?).

Footage went viral of Slaughtneil keeping possession in their own half for several minutes while Magherafelt sat back and refused to engage during their Derry championship meeting.

As a result, Cahair O’Kane suggested a few ways of making the game easier on the eye. ‘Soon to be ex-football fan’ wants to add his tuppence worth.

“Awarding a mark and a free shot at the posts for a clean catch made (from a kick of say around 30m or more) inside the 21, including the ‘D’ area, is worth a try.

“Currently there is little incentive for kicking a long ball into the full-forward line.

Where the attacking player manages to make a clean catch, he is likely to be gobbled up by a swarm of defenders and the catch is rendered pointless.

“A good fielder can make a catch regardless of how many contest the high ball and the extension of the ‘mark’ would create an incentive for using the boot and encourage high fielding with the reward of an uncontested scoring opportunity.

“It is unlikely to emerge as a primary tactic for creating scoring opportunities but might at least provide an option and add a wee bit of variety and unpredictability.

“While ‘paying the mark’ in front of goal, would be a much more radical change to the dynamic of the game, the time for change to the game’s current dynamic has come.

“Hoping that the game will evolve out of its current malaise won’t do. A number of false dawns on that score would suggest it ain’t gonna happen.”

It feels fitting that this proposal is made in the week after Kieran Donaghy announced his departure from the inter-county scene


‘JOHN from between Maghera and Swatragh’ felt change of a different kind was required after that game.

“I'm just wondering would the Derry county board give free admission to the next championship match in Owenbeg by way of an apology to Derry fans for having witnessing that Slaughtneil v Magherafelt game?” said ‘JFBMAS’.

“It was a disgrace to pay £8 in and sit through that on a bad oul night. It would be a good gesture from the county board to say sorry to the fans and next match; free admission.”

I would bring your wallet with you to the next match ‘John’, just in case the powers-that-be don’t heed this advice


Mickey Linden hit the headlines again this week when the Down legend, now 55, came off the bench for Mayobridge Thirds and scored a classy point

AND finally, we’ll finish with this note about a true legend of the game

“No doubt your in box will be full this week with irate callers from our lovely neighbours in Tyrone,” said ‘Michael McStay from Aghagallon’.

“But I would just like to raise a good news GAA story this week, and that was the clip showing Mickey Linden in fine fettle, scoring a point with his left foot in a championship final at 55 years of age - exactly 27 years to the day after leading Down to success against Meath in 1991.

“An absolutely unbelievable achievement from an unbelievable man. What a man and what a person for the young people of Mayobridge to look up to.”

Couldn’t agree more

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