Off The Fence

Armagh v Tyrone: Don't mention the war

Tyrone and Armagh played out some serious battles in the 2000s.

I WAS going to say that the war of words has begun but there seems to be some public objection to use of the word ‘war’ this week.

We’ll let you in on a wee secret – we know Tyrone and Armagh aren’t actually going to war. We know there will be no machetes in Croke Park on Saturday. Sure you’re not even allowed a flag in now.

We know that all will be fair until you see that red and white flag nipping in ahead of you at the toll booth and the temptation to hint them a friendly dunt in the side comes bubbling to the surface.

It’s football. It’s fun. But in sporting terms, it will be war. And when Tyrone and Armagh come together for that, it means more than your average game.

‘Tyrone for Sam’ took issue with the contents of Kicking Out on Tuesday.

“Cahair O'Kane either misunderstands or doesn't know the meaning of the word "hate". When he as did Joe Brolly talk about the hate between Tyrone and Armagh. As a Tyrone supporter I don't agree with that sweeping comment.

“In the main Tyrone and Armagh have always had a healthy rivalry and respect for each other which was obvious at Cormac McAnallen's funeral where the Armagh guys had as many tears as Tyrone players.

“Yes on the field both will do whatever it takes to win. Of course like every county there is a small, loud number who show hate of their opposition. I think Derry have more than most though.

“At the 2003 final taking an overview after the match it was hard to tell who had won because of the mix of orange and white in the streets and bars. Hopefully we get the same result on Saturday.”

Another nameless caller had a similar point.

“I think it’s very irresponsible, some of the headings in the Irish News today. I’m going to football for over 70 years and I never saw such nonsense, talking about wars. It’s a football match, you know? The journalists have a lot to answer for too, writing stuff like that. There’s enough violence without encouraging it, and that’s more or less what’s in the paper today.”

CO’K: Nobody in the GAA really hates each other. At any time of sadness, there’s nobody quicker than your neighbouring club or county to rally in support. But for those 70 minutes of football in a derby such as this, if you can’t find that kind of intense dislike for your opponent then you’re in bother, because you can be sure they will.

FOR all the misty-eyed nostalgia around the meetings in the 2000s, none of them have much relevance to anyone except Sean Cavanagh, who was only among the subs for the 1984 Ulster final and has played in every meeting since.

The one game that does have significance was their 2014 meeting in Omagh, where it’s widely accepted Armagh physically dominated and pushed Tyrone around the place.

At a pre-match press event on Monday, Mickey Harte was asked about the wrestling matches that broke out at the throw-in that day, which led to a yellow card for Mattie Donnelly that prove costly when he earned a second after half an hour.

“I see Mickey Harte is already at the propaganda in the Irish News,” said one ‘Anonymous’ caller.

“Trying to influence referees and officials ahead of Saturdays game with Division Three challengers Armagh.

“Mickey claims that Armagh are the instigators of aggressive play and that his poor innocent lads have wrongly been on the receiving end of referees issuing cards.”

‘Dermot’ was of a similar mind.

“I see Mickey Harte already stroking up the fires for Saturday. Let the officials know that down through the years Tyrone have got away with very aggressive play and not been penalised. You take Sean Cavanagh disgraceful tackle on Ciaran McManus a few years ago.

“Tyrone will come to intimidate Armagh I believe and it’s up to the referee to penalise all the underhand tactics and third man challenges they try. And please let our pure footballers like Jamie Clarke get some protection on Saturday. Patrons pay good money into see footballers like Jamie and they want to be allowed to see him showcase his skills.

“I see it in a lot of Tyrone matches and the referee lets them away with it. Not saying Armagh are angels but they don’t get the protection or the frees Tyrone get.”

CO’K: Rightly or wrongly, Tyrone have been able to plant the seed that Armagh were unduly physical that day three years ago. And if that has an impact on Saturday, Armagh’s decision to decline all interview requests since Sunday’s draw could come back to bite them.

‘Michael from Antrim’, meanwhile, had words of consolation for Rory Gallagher after he bowed to the growing pressure in Donegal and stepped down as senior football manager on Monday night.

“Just hearing the news that Rory Gallagher’s stepped down. Bearing in mind the abuse he’s had to take from the faceless morons that hide behind their computer screens, it’s an absolute disgrace.

“These so-called supporters have short memories. Donegal would never have won an All-Ireland without Rory Gallagher. Jim McGuinness might have gotten the credit for it but speak to any of the players on that team and they’ll tell you the impact Rory Gallagher had.”

CO’K: The expectation on that Donegal team was bordering on complete madness. Staying in Division One was almost the worst thing they could have done in a way. They were never going to win Ulster this year, and no manager will take them there for a couple of years at least.

And finally, while there was praise for Eamonn Burns and Down, and a call from ‘Ché Guevara’ about the Clones / Casement situation that left me with no idea which side of the argument he was on, we’re out of room and figure it best to finish on a public service announcement from ‘Colin’.

“It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to watch matches on Sky. If you have an internet connection, you can buy a NowTV box for £15 and then buy a day pass for Sky Sports for £6.99. You don’t have to take out monthly contracts.”

CO’K: There ye go Duignan, the boy ye.

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