Off The Fence

Off The Fence CCCC unable to reach final judgment on Mattie Donnelly-Chrissy McKaigue incident

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly attempts to escape the attentions of Derry's Chrissy McKaigue during Sunday's Ulster Championship clash at Celtic Park. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THERE has been no official word yet from the GAA about the coming together between Mattie Donnelly and Chrissy McKaigue at Celtic Park. There may be none at all.

But that hasn’t stopped Off The Fence’s CCCC acting as judge, jury and executioner on the case, with prosecution and defence offering exoneration and condemnation of both parties in equal measure.

From the first ball until the last, Donnelly and McKaigue spent Sunday afternoon in each other’s pockets – a damn shame for the game as a spectacle considering both men, in full flow, are a joy to behold.

The flashpoint occurred about 10 minutes after half-time, and television cameras appeared to catch Donnelly striking out at McKaigue, with post-match pundits and Sunday Game analysts clearly feeling the Trillick man might have a case to answer.

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OUR first caller is in the same camp, hitting out at referee Maurice Deegan for taking no action.

“It says on the very front page of The Irish News this morning (Monday, May 29) ‘Caught Red Handed’. What does that mean? Donnelly hitting McKaigue - was he caught red handed? He should’ve had a red card.

“I think Maurice Deegan needs a pair of glasses. Tyrone got a lot of very, very soft frees. I saw them on the TV and they’re still at that oul carry-on of lying down and getting frees.

“Derry didn’t lie down and get frees – any frees they got they had to work for them. Plus Mattie Donnelly should’ve had a red card.”

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THE following email comes from a slightly different perspective - the clue was in the subject line: ‘McKaigue’s a [five-letter word that we've decided not to print]’.

You’ll be shocked to read that the chosen pseudonym here was ‘Tyrone Fan’.

“Disappointingly, McKaigue never tried to play football yesterday,” he claims.

“He concentrated on fouling, half-fouling and niggling at Donnelly constantly from the throw-in and would have deserved a real slap for his antics.

“Donnelly half-flapped at him, more in frustration than anything else, but McKaigue went down as if he'd been pole-axed. I hadn't figured a player of McKaigue's class for a cheat.

“And as for Barton - well, when a team that loses by 11 points, having been outclassed all over the field, starts crying about the referee on the Sunday Game interview, you know that Derry will never be any better while he's in charge.”

I’m going to go all Arsene Wenger here (congrats on the new contract by the way) and admit that, although the incident happened right under the press box, I didn’t see eet.

I did watch the conversation between the pair unfold in the minutes after though, and it didn’t look like they were discussing what they were going to have for tea after.

It was clear McKaigue was seriously irked by whatever had gone on.

It’s understandable that Derry would go out to limit the influence of two-time Allstar Donnelly, but sacrificing one of their best players in order to do so seemed like an awful waste.

Tyrone have other players who can burst forward and get them on the front foot so can function effectively even when Donnelly is occupied. Derry don’t have that luxury, and it showed.

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SCORING 22 times, 11 points to spare against your neighbours, 11 different names on the scoreboard, and the one surprise name in the starting 15 delivering a midfield masterclass and picking up the man-of-the-match award.

Mickey Harte clearly hasn’t a clue what he’s doing.

The first of two voicemails left on the same issue was delivered with such a downbeat tone that it would have had you wondering whether the Red Hands had won at all.

“It appears Mickey Harte still doesn’t know his strongest team,” says ‘Tyrone caller’.

“Four subs came on in the last 15 minutes and scored seven points, a third of their total. They still need a reliable free-taker – Lee Brennan may be the answer.

“They’re still not getting the ball in quick enough, too defensive. He says it’s time to move on – and if he doesn’t change to a more attacking style, he could move on before the end of August.”

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‘A VERY happy Down man’ is clearly never more at peace with the world than when he’s doling out abuse left, right and centre.

Tyrone. Derry. Mickey Harte. Referees. Tyrone again. Some 40-year-old full-forward. The Free State. Nobody was safe.

“That was the worst Derry team that ever came out on a field,” he says.

“A good club team would’ve beaten them. They should have sent out Slaughtneil, they would’ve hammered th’on team (the most damning criticism of any group of players is to be derided as th’on team).

“Tyrone had 10 shots into the goalkeeper, and when you think of the handy frees they got and they couldn’t even take them.

“They have no free-takers and the best player they had was a 40-year-old in the forward line (I presume you mean the 34-year-old Sean Cavanagh?) – he’s the only one of the present Tyrone forward line who would’ve got his place in the teams that won the All-Ireland (NEWSFLASH: He did, all three of them).

“Mickey Harte has no chance of beating Donegal, never mind winning a fourth All-Ireland with this team.

“If they do get to Croke Park, referees don’t give northern teams frees. Look what happened Kieran McGeeney and that Antrim player – it shows that Free State crowd’s as biased as ever.”

My head is fried just reading that, I can’t begin to imagine what it is like to live in your world.

There has been plenty of focus on the supposed shortcomings of Tyrone and Mickey Harte in recent months, but this seems an unusual time to start up the bandwagon again after such a convincing victory.

Donegal will be the real test, of course. But don’t forget who won the last Ulster Championship meeting between the counties last July. And who was the main man that day? That’s right - the 40-year-old himself (although admittedly he was only 39 then).

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