This morning comes the inevitable confirmation that Mark Ronaldson’s well-judged elbow into Ryan McMenamin’s rather demonic looking mush has resulted in the Shrule-Glencorrib sharpshooter having the yellow card he was given on the day upgraded to red. On the face of it, you can’t really argue with this decision, in that what Ronaldo did to Ricey (even if it was Ricey) was worse than the bull-in-a-china-shop challenge that earned Trevor a straight red against Galway the Sunday before that.
With Tyrone having lost three players for the Omagh game via the same retrospective process, it always meant – given that so much of what passes for justice GAA-style has to do with cack-handed attempts of this kind to even things up – we were going to be susceptible to this kind of sanction should any such incident come to their attention. Ronaldo’s dig at McMenamin fitted the bill perfectly for this purpose.
However, if the lads who dished out Ronaldo’s punishment had looked at the match tape properly, you’d have thought that they might also have caught the incident where Kevin McLoughlin was taken out of it after the ball – which led to his substitution shortly afterwards and is probably also the reason why he won’t be lining out next Sunday either – or that dirty knee that McMenamin landed into Enda Varley when he was on the ground late in the secnd half. But, of course, they’re Tyrone lads and Mickey has his knickers in enough of a twist already so that was never going to happen. It is, after all, selective and highly arbitrary GAA “justice” we’re dealing with here.
The main decision we have to make now is when Mark serves his time (and serve it he undoubtedly will, as there’s no chance he’ll get off) and it obviously makes sense to waive any right of appeal so that the clock starts from last Sunday. The month ban he’s been given means he’ll miss the FBD final, the home game against the Dubs and the tricky away game to Derry (which is bad luck because this latter tie is due to be played under lights on the Saturday evening, with the ban expiring that midnight). If he requests a hearing (and loses), he’ll be okay to play in the FBD final on Sunday but he then might also miss the trip to Kerry as well. It’s a bit of a pain either way but I think the logical choice is to accept the ban and move on.
You’ll have seen the team for the FBD final by now, I guess, which I uploaded late last night after having returned from a daytrip to London (hence the Pudsy Ryan-type errors which I had to correct this morning. Interesting aside on that trip – the fog was so thick in the Heathrow area yesterday morning that the first time I realised we were near the ground was when the wheels hit the tarmac. My first thought was that we had crashed but then when Sean Flanagan failed to materialise coming down the aisle clutching the Sam Maguire, I figured we had instead made a normal, if entirely blind, landing).
Right, where was I? Oh yes, the team for the FBD final on Sunday and it’s obvious that Johnno has selected a side that he wants to see win. I see Keith has been dropped: serves him right after that overly impressive performance up in Omagh the last day. Alan Feeney comes in at corner-back and the only other change in the backs sees Chris Barrett come in for the presumably injured Kevin McLoughlin. In the forwards, the only change is Barry Kelly – who has impressed when he’s come on the last two days – coming in on the forty, with Seamus O’Shea moving over to 12 and Alan Freeman dropping out. With Ronaldo gone, the obvious thing to do is bring Alan back in or else give someone like Neill Douglas or Mikey Sweeney a run in the corner.
I’m a bit disappointed that we’re not making more widespread changes for this one but I guess there is a two-week gap to the Dublin game so Johnno obviously wants to keep this nice winning rhythm going. It does, though, mean that the stakes become a bit higher for Sunday’s match because, as Seáneen from the Galway GAA blog has already pointed out in a comment on the site here, they won’t really want to see us do them for the fourth time in a row. It could be an interesting clash on Sunday.
One man who won’t be taking part in proceedings at McHale Park on Sunday is Aidan Kilcoyne but, speaking with Mike Finnerty in the Mayo News earlier this week, the Knockmore man revealed that his rehab is going well, so well that he could be back in time for the league match with Monaghan at the end of March. Killer had a very good year last year and the moment his collarbone snapped at Croke Park against Meath last August was the moment when the wheels started to come off for us that day. Given that he’s already had one setback since then, it’s important that he’s not rushed back into action this time and that instead he’s fit and roaring for road come summer. I’ve always felt that Aidan is a much more effective performer on the hard summer surfaces and so we should take the next two or three months to ease him gently back into the squad and get him 100% fit for the championship. Given the options we now have in the forwards – not least because of the return from Down Under of the two amigos – this is a luxury we can surely afford, GAA Taliban justice notwithstanding.