Cork end Tyrone’s back-to-back hopes

Cork v TyroneThe rain never showed up at Croke Park today and, to a large extent, neither did Tyrone who, in the end, gave up their quest for a shot at back-to-back All-Irelands in a tame enough manner. The five-point margin of defeat flattered them a little, I thought, and, but for John Bannon’s latest (and, one hopes, last) shocking performance with the whistle, that margin would have been at least doubled.

I’m delighted Cork won today. That’s partly because, ever since the quarters, I’ve been touting such an outcome and I had them down to win by three today in my mini-league prediction. I could never understand all this hoopla about how invincible Tyrone supposedly were, given that they’d never come within an ass’s roar of retaining Sam before and in light of their extremely laboured win over a willing but callow Kildare in the quarters three weeks ago.

It was that same day that Cork ripped Donegal to pieces and they tore into Tyrone with the same abandon today. Losing Sean Cavanagh ahead of throw-in was a hammer blow for the champions (even if their captain had been less than influential against Kildare) but anyone who was in these parts today will confirm that the weather wasn’t any help to the Red Hand either. The rain that fell in torrents elsewhere around the country stayed away from here but the day was warm on the Northside and the air was so heavy it felt almost viscous. Not the kind of conditions, in other words, in which to play the kind of furiously swarming high pressure game that Tyrone have developed into such a fine art.

In today’s conditions, half an hour of that crack and they were guaranteed to be bollixed. But worse still for Tyrone was the fact that Cork – a younger and, by the looks of it, a fitter unit – came at them like an express train and, inside ten minutes, the All-Ireland champions were already back-pedalling all over the shop. When Daniel Goulding lashed in the game’s only goal after just seven minutes, Cork had already opened plenty of clear water between the sides and as the half wore on, that gap was starting to become a chasm.

But then John Bannon decided it was time to take centre stage. His sending-off of Alan O’Connor has to rank as one of the most stupid refereeing decisions in Gaelic football in recent times (and, boy, there’s a fair old list to choose from there). The first yellow card was debatable – there was contact between O’Connor and McGinley but, in true Tyrone tradition, McGinley went to ground far, far too easily and the yellow card looked harsh. The second was just plain idiotic: the Corkman simply collided with Mulligan (another Red Hand man who knows how to dive with effect) and how Bannon could have interpreted this as a foul, let alone one that should merit a yellow card and, by extension, a red, is simply beyond comprehension.

It was an utter travesty of a decision but that’s what you get when you put incompetent clowns in charge of high-profile matches such as this. After the Connacht final, I said that John Bannon should never again be allowed to ref any match of importance in the future but such is the seriousness with which refereeing matters are handled by the GAA that this dog’s breakfast of a performance was rewarded by Bannon being given today’s gig. At least he’s retiring at the end of the season and so, unless those bone-headed fools who decide who gets to ref these games give him the whistle for the final, that’s the last we’ll see of him.

You have to hand it to Conor Counihan and his colleagues on the line, though: they sussed Bannon to a tee and they knew that he’d let them away with everything short of decapitation in the second half. Which, of course, is exactly what he did, giving every debatable decision Cork’s way and letting all manner of belting and pucking by Cork go over the course of he second thirty-five minutes. Canty, Murphy and the rest of them kept piling in, even after they’d been yellow-carded because they knew Bannon wouldn’t dare send off another one of them. Even when one of his umpires told him that John Miskella had decked Brian McGuigan (a straight red offence), the ref chickened out and issued a truly laughable yellow.

What Bannon did succeed in doing, though, was to alter the contest, from one where Cork held all the aces and looked set to put Tyrone decisively to the sword to one where the Munster champions had to defend a five-point lead against the last team in the world that you’d want to face when playing with a man down. It could have become (unjustly, had this happened) a compelling contest but Cork somehow managed to up their workrate, frustrate Tyrone by fouling well out the field and by using their bench to good effect.

Tyrone looked a very tired team in the end and when Brian Dooher was withdrawn midway through the second half, it was in many ways a metaphor for the way that Tyrone were running out of gas all over the field. Well, if the Duracell Bunny goes flat on you, you’re pretty much buggered, aren’t you? It could well, I reckon, be the last time that Dooher graces the Croke Park pitch in a Tyrone jersey.

Spillane was out of the traps rapidly after the final whistle to dance on Tie-rone’s grave and, insufferable prick that he can often be, he did so with no little glee (which is just one more reason to hope that Meath do one on them next Sunday or, failing that, that Cork finally succeed in getting the Green and Gold monkey off their back next month). While I’m not weeping after Tyrone – what with their overly cynical approach, their blatant diving, their rugby league tackling and that maniacal loon Ryan McMenamin – if their demise makes Kerry’s job of lifting Sam easier (which, you’d have to say it does), I’m not exactly in celebratory mode either.

The other action that was of interest today – potentially of far more interest to us as well – was the minor semi-final between Armagh and Kerry. The Ulster champions ended up winning by a comfortable two-goal margin but trailing by three at half-time, mainly due to the excellent free-taking of Kerry’s Eanna O’Connor (son of Jack), they looked anything but comfortable at that stage. They’d fluffed two good goal chances in that opening thirty minutes but when they were presented with a third opportunity straight after the restart, they made no mistake with Gavin McPartland slotting the ball into the net. The Orchard County lads pushed on well from there and victory was sealed with a second McPartland goal late on.

We still have Down to deal with next Sunday before we can even start talking about how we’d fare in a potential minor final with Armagh so I’m not going to start doing so now. What I will say, though, is that Armagh don’t look anything as strong as Tyrone did at this time last year and so there’s every chance that the winner of next Sunday’s other semi-final could be the team that’ll go all the way in September.

13 thoughts on “Cork end Tyrone’s back-to-back hopes

  1. lots of slipping about on the surface yesterday again, i see hampden park was unplayable ( in the correct sense rather than this new meaning of the word) after the U2 concert…

    fair play to cork but you have to think kerry are wating for them again , ok i know meath are there too but i dont rate them.. there i said it!

  2. I wonder is this the same John Bannon….Welcome to the cyberspace of John Bannon— creator, author, lecturer, and performer of original close-up magic with playing cards. http://www.johnbannonmagic.com/
    Some close up magic with playing cards yesterday allright.

    To figure out what we’re missing, you have to look at those who are contenders. Looking at Cork, while they are unusually big team, and I’m not saying you have to be a big team to win Sam; Tyrone have proved that isnt the case. They are very physical, and have a few players who you know will put themselves in “harms way” to win. I’m not saying we have a bunch of shrinking violets but we dont have anyone I can think of who you feel is made of grit. Thats not meant to sound insulting, even if it does. By grit I mean the lad you know would go through a wall, and is a bit salty. Graham Canty for example, Ricey for Tyrone. Joe Sheridan for Meath.The only one I can think of for us is David Heaney and he just seems tierd or off form or something. The rest all seem a bit too light, or nice or something. Am I making any sense?

  3. WJ – I believe those same Armagh minors bet our boys by 10 points in a challenge game earlier this year.

  4. That’s excellent, bwp – I wonder if Joe McQuillan has anything similar on the go as well?!

    I heard about that challenge match result, Shane, but I’m not sure if all that much can be read into it. It was just a challenge and it took place before the minor championship got going properly. The comparison I was making was between Armagh this year and Tyrone last year, with the latter scoring 1-21 in their semi-final against Meath whom they utterly destroyed in that game. Armagh will be tough to beat in the final (regardless of whether or not it’s us that qualifies to meet them) but I doubt if they’re as good as Tyrone were last year. Billy Fitz said earlier this year that he though our minors this year were better than last year’s side but that theory will undergo a tough enough examination next Sunday!

  5. Couldn’t disagree more WJ. The first yellow O’Connor got was justified. Slow-motion replay shows he slipped into the tackle but from where the ref stood there was no way he could have come to any other decision. The second yellow he got was indeed a foul and should have merited a ticking, or if the ref felt it was dangerous play, a yellow. I thought the game detiorated as a spectacle after that, but that wasn’t JB’s problem. In my opinion reffing GAA is an impossible job- we all seem to have a fairly clear idea of what sort of tackle and physical contact is acceptable, but that idea is gained from experience and doesn’t correspond with the rulebook, which states the only tackle permissible is a shoulder or flicking the ball away while it’s being played. So refs are handed a vague rulebook and hung out to dry on the pitch. It’s not an easy job, but it is all to easy to criticise from the sideline. Mickey Harte, did his ‘I am not criticising the ref, BUT’ routine- a staple of a good percentage of losing managers. JOM recently called the ref evaluation system into question!
    Bottom line is, it’s a very tough job, and tougher still when you have hundreds of thousands of people who have never done the job, and most with a patchy idea of the actual rules, behind you second guessing you with the benefit of video replay.

  6. Like any job, tough or not, if your not up to it dont do it. There has to be a link between playing and reffing, its no coincidence that the best refs were playing recently or are still playing. And I’d agree with Johnno on their being flaws on the refs assesment system. How in the name of God, after the rediculous performance John Bannon put in in the Connacht Final did he get the semi final?

  7. I don’t agree that “there was no way he could have come to any other decision” in relation to the first O’Connor incident. Bannon was probably right to blow for the free but he didn’t have to card O’Connor for the incident. McGinley clearly made a meal of it (as Tyrone players are notorious for doing in such circumstances) and Gaelic football isn’t the same as soccer where such theatrical actions almost always result in a player getting carded, even where contact is minimal. A better option by Bannon at that juncture would have been to have a quiet word to O’Connor. I completely disagree with you about the second one – if you look at the replays (which I accept JB couldn’t do but, as a result, he shouldn’t have just dived in and flashed another yellow), it’s as clear as day that the collision was purely accidental. I don’t think O’Connor even saw him coming but, of course, Mugsie made sure to execute a nice belly-flop on his way to the deck.

    It would be one thing if Bannon implemented the rules consistently but, as ever, he failed to do this the last day. There were three clothesline tackles made by Cork players early in the second half, one after another in about a 90 seconds spell, and Bannon only blew for the free when the third one happened despite the fact that all three were clear yellow card offences, far clearer ones that O’Connor’s ‘fouls’. And there were numerous other calls he got badly wrong which have been well documented at this stage, not least the ludicrous way he handled the Miskella incident.

    The problem I have is that the GAA simply isn’t serious about promoting good refereeing. How can it be when it hands the refereeing of the two semi-finals to the likes of Bannon and Kinneavy? Are they really the best two they could find? I don’t know if you were in Salthill for the Connacht final but I was and Bannon’s performance that day was a complete joke, as he’s been on numerous occasions down the years. That he should be rewarded for this latest cock-up by being given an AISF says it all, really.

    The way matches are being reffed is a serious problem – we should know, we lost to Meath this year maninly because McQuillan’s decisions resulted in a ten-point swing to them – and unless the GAA start to recognise this (and stop coming out with snooty, high-handed defending of the indefensible), punters are going to start voting with their feet. I’d agree that refs are in a difficult position but handing the big games to the same old incompetent officials isn’t the way to go. Personally, I think they need to look at a revamp of officiating more generally, with a bigger role for umpires and, perhaps, having two refs on the pitch but that’s one for another day, I suppose.

  8. REGARDING THE COMMENT : JOM recently called the ref evaluation system into question! from my understanding what JOM called for was the making public of the evaluation and Iwonder what the problem with this is after all transperency is king nowadays sure even the poor farmer has his headage published !
    Ref’s job is difficult ? true.. so he need help ? yes ? then give him help. more training, more Refs one on the field one in charge one on each line with defined consultative role It takes a lot of maturity to accept that we need help to do our job properly this is clearly lacking given the defensive reaction from on high being peddled currently.

  9. JOM only called for the evaluations to be published after he’d been dumped out of the championship… if it was so important to him surely he’d have been pushing for this before the season starts? To my mind, publishing them would hand more ammo to losing managers to blame refs for their team losing. I have to say lads, I do feel most of us (myself very much included) don’t know the actual rules, we only have an idea of what we see as acceptable. I would agree some of the Cork tackles looked high but I thought Tyrone players had a habit of ducking their heads to escape the tackles. I’m not saying that JB didn’t make mistakes, just that we should be much more careful in criticising referees, when we don’t have the same knowledge of the rules-rules which are difficult to apply consistently.

  10. Fair point, but I’m not sure – having seen his performances repeatedly down the years – that Bannon has any great grasp of the rules either or the ability to apply them on a consistent basis!

    As regards the point I made above about the GAA not being serious about the problem, just look at this: it’s like reading Pravda in the days of Stalin.

  11. What we saw from Bannon and McQuillan is just a symptom of a deeper problem – the GAA cannot attract enough of the right calibre of person to produce a sufficient number of highly capable refs.
    Cause 1: Lack of respect for refs. Abuse of refs is widespread even at U10 games from parents and some mentors. Who in their right mind wants to run the gauntlet of abuse on the way out of a pitch. Cure: massive fines for clubs who allow this.
    Cause 2: Rules and their interpretation re tackling is unclear. Cure: simplify them.
    Cause 3: Too many silly responsibilities for the ref – timekeeping, record of subs cards scores etc.
    Cure: remove these duties from the ref and give them to another official.
    Cause 4: Getting critical decisions wrong and suffering the resultant misery is offputting for a potential ref. Cure: bring in video reviews in championship matches from quarter final on for penaltis, dubious goals and red card incidents.

    Combine this with excellent training and proper feedback on performance and indeed attractive rewards and we might make progress.

  12. I agree diehard, all sensible options. On the respect for refs thing, I coach rugby at a reasonable level and have done underage in the past. It is instilled in players all the way up that you must have the upmost respect for the referee. This is enforced by the coaches (its not uncommon for a player to be sub’d for questioning a ref, he doesnt do it again), by the clubs, by the refs themselves by not standing for it (an important point) and sometimes by the players towards their peers. There is no reason this could not be enforced in GAA.
    In actual fact, I live in a rural area and am involved with bring involved with both GAA and rugby have seen the very same players who accept a penalty awarded against them in rugby (sometimes resulting in 3 points for the opposition) without question or a comment, verbally abuse a ref in a GAA match when a free is awarded against them. Like it or not, abusing refs is part of the ethos of the GAA, it can be stopped but until everyone involved gets serious about it, from Croke Park down to U-8 coaches, it wont happen.

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