Mickey Harte blindsided as red card leaves Derry up against it in Galway group opener

Derry manager Harte didn’t see off-the-ball incident as Oak Leafers lose out at Pearse Stadium

Derry manager Mickey Harte pictured during his side's defeat by Donegal last weekend. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Derry manager Mickey Harte Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Group One, Round One: Galway 2-14 Derry 0-15

MICKEY Harte said he didn’t see the game-changing incident that saw Gareth McKinless red-carded 21 minutes into Derry’s All-Ireland opener against Galway on Saturday.

McKinless - now facing a two-game ban - was penalised for tripping Damien Comer during a nip-and-tuck first half at Pearse Stadium and then appeared to stamp on the full-forward’s ankle. Was it deliberate?

The officials decided it was and McKinless left the field and with him, although they battled to the finish, went Derry’s prospects of winning and, quite possibly, of topping their group and having the preferred path to the quarter-final stage.

Galway manager Padraic Joyce described the alleged stamp as a “horrendous thing to do” but Harte said: “I didn’t see it”.

“I’ll tell you another thing – I don’t believe it was a foul in the first place, that’s what I think,” he added.

“There should have been no free in the first place and I don’t know what happened after that. I thought something had happened off-the-ball, but I didn’t see anything.”

With Armagh (home) and Westmeath (at a neutral venue) still to come, two wins could yet see Derry take top spot and proceed straight to the last eight while avoiding the play-off round.

“Everybody wants to go the direct route,” said Harte.

“To do that you have to top the group and when you don’t top the group, it adds pressure. You’ve an extra game and the next game follows on if you’re lucky enough to win that so it puts you in a place where you would choose not to be.

“Sometimes you have to go the road you’re sent as fate would have it. I’ve been down a few of those roads before and we managed rightly.”

Chasing a game with 14 men was draining for Derry and Harte had used only two substitutes before he sent two more on in the final five minutes.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Oak Leafers came within a whisker of levelling the game when Shane McGuigan’s piledriver was saved by Connor Gleeson. Galway broke from there and killed the game with their second goal.

Their first – scored by Sean Kelly – came when an Odhran Lynch kickout was intercepted by Matthew Tierney but Harte said no blame should be attached to his goalkeeper.

“The goal was just one of those things that happens from time to time in the modern game,” he said.

“Pressure on the kickout, if there is an error of any kind you are liable to concede a goal. Odhran Lynch has been very good on those kicks and he got away a lot of them today.

“Unfortunately, one of them didn’t quite work out for us. For me it was more Shane’s shot - if it had gone in, and he did brilliantly to fetch and shoot, that would be a draw-game at that stage. I think it would have been a very interesting finish.”

Derry travelled to Galway minus injured Padraig McGrogan, Eoin McEvoy, Cormac Murphy, Conor Doherty… Harte pointed out how injuries had ravaged his panel at a critical point of the season.

“You have to suck it up and go on,” he said.

“To lose a man so early was always going to be a fight to the end and I thought we did well to stay in the game.

“We played very good football to stay in the game, we played with a lot of energy, we got a lot of what we didn’t get against Donegal.

“It was a real quality performance in terms of the energy our players brought to it. It is harsh, we could have been level and suddenly we are six points down. If that goal had gone in, it would have been real interesting to see how the last 10-15 minutes would go.

“I thought we played a lot of good football, we managed the game well considering we were a man down. We asked for energy, we asked for a performance from the players and I’m very happy that we got it.”