Kenny Archer: Never any outcry when Tyrone are on the wrong side of sporting injustice

Kenny Archer

Kenny Archer

Kenny is the deputy sports editor and a Liverpool FC fan.

Westmeath benefitted from a few favourable decisions during their All-Ireland SFC game against Tyrone.
Westmeath benefitted from a few favourable decisions during their All-Ireland SFC game against Tyrone.

FOR the simple reason that it allows me to write this column, I'm glad that Tyrone's footballers were the victims of the worst bit of officiating last weekend.

Conn Kilpatrick was in acres of space, cutting in towards the Westmeath goal, when the Lake County defender Kevin Maguire dragged him down by the neck.

As clear an example of a black card offence as you would want, and the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity to boot.

The GAA Official Guide Part 2, under Category II Infractions – Cynical Behaviour, states the following:

5.10 To deliberately pull down an opponent.

Nowhere does it say that the 'pull-down' has to be around the waist, nor that the pull-down has to involve both hands.

Indeed, there's a case that the offence actually fell under Category III Infractions:

5.17 To behave in any way which is dangerous to an opponent.

Hauling at someone's neck as they're running at pace is clearly a dangerous action.

Michael Murphy, who's showing himself to be as good an analyst as he was a footballer, did not let his Donegal bias prevent him from declaring on GAAGO that Tyrone should have been awarded a penalty.

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Of course, they weren't. Murphy also noted, as did our reporter Cahair O'Kane, that referee Noel Mooney awarded frees more easily to Westmeath than to Tyrone throughout the match.

And so, reprieved, Westmeath came back to draw the game. In fact, they could/ should have won it, except John Heslin sent a late free narrowly wide, in homage to his boss Dessie Dolan.

There's a certain irony that after what happened to Kilpatrick it was Westmeath who 'choked' at the end, as a win would have sent them through and knocked Tyrone out.

Had the Red Hand been round the Westmeath neck there's absolutely no doubt that the topic would have been covered ad nauseam – in newspapers, online, on radio, TV, and podcasts. I'd have had to ponder a different topic to opine upon.

Instead, because Tyrone were shafted, there was a smirk and a shrug, and an attitude of 'let's move on, that doesn't really matter'.

For the good of Gaelic football it would have been much better had any other team than Tyrone been on the wrong end of that appallingly weak refereeing.

In those circumstances, there would have been an appropriate outcry, a campaign that 'Something must be done'.

Take away the team colours, show the footage of that incident to anyone sensible, and they'd say that the defender should have been black-carded. Most would also agree that it was a clear goalscoring opportunity, so the attacking team should have been awarded a penalty kick.

Tyrone on the ball, bearing down on goal, though?

No black card.

No penalty kick.

No outcry.

The double standards continue every time Tyrone play.

Any offence by a Tyrone man – and there are a few, let's be honest – are amplified into 'crime of the century' territory.

Offences against the Red Hands, however, are laughed off.

Westmeath manager Dessie Dolan did precisely that when GAAGO presenter Grainne McElwain put it to him that his team had been lucky in that incident. 'That was a high tackle', he smirked.

The pundits chuckled.

The knock-on effects could be severe, not only for Tyrone, but also for Galway and Mayo.

One of those Connacht teams will be out of the All-Ireland SFC before the quarter-final stage as a consequence of that dreadfully poor refereeing.

Against 14 men, even if they hadn't been awarded (and scored) a penalty kick, Tyrone would have seen out that game, taking the victory.

That would have meant Galway topping the group on scoring difference. The Red Hands would probably have finished above Armagh by the same measure, or at least as a consequence of their head-to-head result in Omagh.

Instead, Galway lost out on an extra week's rest, and must take on their arch-rivals Mayo, rather than one of the winners of this weekend's preliminary quarter-finals.

Tyrone have been denied home advantage in the last 12, instead heading into a difficult derby game away to Donegal.

As I said, such double standards operating against Tyrone are nothing new.

In the first group game in Galway, the Red Hands were (correctly, in my view) down to 14 men after Frank Burns was sent off.

They then went down to 13 men for 10 minutes when goalkeeper Niall Morgan was black-carded. His offence? Shouting at the referee.

How many players give referees an earful of abuse? And how many of those are sin-binned for that?

Go back to the final seconds of normal time in this year's Ulster SFC Final.

Derry give the ball away in defence, allowing Armagh's Jarly Og Burns a sight of goal.

Derry's Brendan Rogers drags him to the ground.

The outcry afterwards was noticeable only by its absence. Indeed, there was more debate about Rogers having to spend 10 minutes in the sin bin when a red card would have allowed Derry to start extra time with 15 men.

Brendan is a great fella and a great footballer - just like former Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh, who infamously committed a similar action against Monaghan in an All-Ireland quarter-final a decade ago.

Monaghan's Conor McManus is dragged down by Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh during a 2013 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. Pic Philip Walsh
Monaghan's Conor McManus is dragged down by Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh during a 2013 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. Pic Philip Walsh

Both players committed cynical acts – but only one of them was publicly vilified. To this day. Go figure.

The Slaughtneil man's offence was worse, coming as it did so late in the game. Had Armagh scored a goal then they would surely have won the Anglo-Celt Cup. Instead they lost it on penalties.

Cavanagh's rugby tackle occurred with a quarter of the match left, but ever since it's been portrayed like Luis Suarez punching the ball off the goal-line in that 2010 World Cup quarter-final for Uruguay against Ghana.

Clearly, among supporters and many officials, an offence is coloured by whose hand commits it – especially if it's Red.