Joe Brolly

JOE BROLLY: Junior jinks

THIS week’s Policing Board report shows ahow extraordinarily peaceful the North has become. PSNI officers have only discharged a shot five times in the last ten years, the most recent being an unintentional discharge in June 2022. The other four shots were fired into the air outside Omagh police station after Tyrone won Sam in 2021.

The All-Ireland Junior final last Sunday had everything except shots fired into the air.

It was a marvellously entertaining first half. Both teams looked way above junior standard, and played with a sense of adventure way above senior standard. As anticipated, it boiled down to Stewartstown versus David Clifford. Paudie, who plays at centre back to allow him the freedom to attack, was faithfully man-marked and got no freedom at all.

Sadly, the second half was spoiled. I watched it again on Monday and the rot started when the big Fossa corner forward, former Kerry minor Emmet O’Shea, lay down and feigned injury when the Harps corner-back Darren Devlin lightly brushed his face.

The reaction to this tells you how our game has been compromised by cynicism. He shouldn’t have put his hand on him was the theme. Not: young O’Shea made an awful fool of himself, embarrassing himself and his parish. It is a real pity that we are moving to a culture where feigning injury resulting in an opponent being sent off is celebrated as a success.

The sending off was for ‘striking’ and is highly likely to be overturned on the basis of the TV footage. This is precisely what happened in the case of Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee when he was sent off a few years ago by David Gough. Having viewed the footage, it was clear that it was a push/touch, not a strike and Ronan’s red card for striking was revoked.

For the avoidance of doubt, a strike is defined as follows: “To hit forcibly and deliberately with one’s hand or a weapon or other implement.” Young O’Shea ought to be ashamed of himself, bringing that Portugese soccer behaviour into Croke Park. I hope at least one of the elders in Fossa have had a word with him about his responsibility to our great community.

The sending off was bad but wasn’t what caused the real problem. The real problem came when the referee gave a yellow card to the big Fossa midfielder after a horrendous clothesline assault on the onrushing Stewartstown player. After that, you could feel the anger. The worst incident belonged to Anton Coyle, the Stewartstown substitute. This was a deliberate and outrageous elbow to Paudie Clifford’s face that ripped his lip open but could easily have broken his jaw. After that, it was mayhem.

For me, it was that yellow card that changed the atmosphere. It is impossible to understand the referee’s decision. David got sent off for a cynical foul and as always, took it like a man.

Paudie got sent off for doing more or less the same as Darren Devlin and like Darren, is very likely to have the card overturned since it was not, in any interpretation of the definition, a “forcible hit.”

It is a pity that these errors ruined what was promising to be an absolutely barnstorming second half. In the first period, the Harps full-forward Gareth Devlin looked like Frank McGuigan in the ‘84 Ulster final, as he amassed 1-3 from play with both feet and the fist. Like Frank, he has the physique of a bag of blue circle cement and a delicate dummy that would arouse Owen Mulligan, a man not easily aroused.

Many people online commented on Gareth’s multiple tattoos. Tyrone Tribulations explained that these were the menu from the local Chinese takeaway. Clifford meanwhile was Clifford.

The game was in the balance with Stewartstown clearly the better team. Without Clifford, Harps would have been All-Ireland champions. Of course, without Clifford, Galway would be All-Ireland champions.

The second half began as the first had, but the wrong sending off and then the non sending off ruined the finale.

There was still time for a hilarious captain’s speech from Paudie Clifford, reminiscent of Father Ted when he won the Golden Cleric Award. Here is what Paudie said:

“To the referee and the officials, obviously a very, a tough game to ref there at the end, ahm……. a good job other than there at the end when I was wrongly sent off…..ahm…..ahm…just….unbelievable how I was sent off.”

Luckily for the GAA community, he did not go on to read out a list of Liars, Cheats, or People Who Have Let Me Down.

The publicity afterwards was along the lines of typical Tyrone thuggery etc etc, which was unfair and was largely coloured by Anton Coyle’s very bad challenge on Paudie.

If it had been the other way around, I think the media would have taken the following line:

Early in the second half, the Fossa corner back touched his opponent, who promptly threw himself on the ground and feigned injury, another example of cheating by a Tyrone player to add to a long list of similar examples.

Shortly afterwards, the Stewartstown number 8 was, amazingly, not sent off after a very bad, very late assault, an incident that could have caused very serious injury to the young Kerry forward. Indeed, it came as a relief to the crowd and no doubt his family when the young man was able to continue.

The Fossa substitute was then sent off after what appeared to be a mistimed tackle, his elbow briefly coming in contact with an opponent’s face in a game that wasn’t in the least bit unsporting, save for the behaviour of the Tyrone team. Stewartstown’s captain was then rightly sent off in the closing stages for appearing to eye gouge an opponent while he was on the ground.

As for the winning speech by the Stewartstown captain where he heavily criticised the referee and the officials, it was simply outrageous and the sort of unsporting outburst that has come to typify Tyrone GAA. No doubt the GAA authorities will be considering whether to charge him with bringing the game into disrepute.

Now. Tell me I’m wrong.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW