9 February 2006 Edition
Spring fever at Healy Park
BY Matt Treacy
There is an old children's story about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Sitting in the car outside Healy Park in Omagh last Sunday waiting for the traffic to move, diverted by the occasional Tyrone supporter spitting on the car in front of us that had Dublin flags on the roof, it came back to mind.
There were a number of boys who had cried wolf. Diving after imaginary punches, rolling about like bad ham actors in an Anew McMaster's fit-up, dropping like the Ballymun Towers under phantom aerial assaults. Indeed if Paddy Powers oddsmaker was there he might have been tempted to revise the odds on best supporting actor.
However, as the little boy who cried wolf discovered, some day the wolf will come to see you.
There has been much talk since about what took place between Dublin and Tyrone. The President of the Association intervened within hours to call for the Central Disciplinary Committee to take stern action. Monday morning's newspapers all had large colour photographs. Pat Kenny, who knows as much about football as the Dalai Lama, was horrified. "Disgusted father of 14 from Athlone," was ringing Des Cahill to express his disgust.
What a load of nonsense. By the time you are reading this, some sort of exemplary punishment may already have been meted out after the CDC meeting on Wednesday. Personally I hope that no player from any side is given a lengthy suspension, and that the CDC does not allow itself to be browbeaten by the Joe Duffy brigade into doing something silly to two of the best teams in the country. But as I write this, I am not optimistic.
What took place was not nice to see but there has been a lot worse. The tackling on the field was robust and there were one or two off-the-ball confrontations, but nothing that we have not see before, or will not see again. It is also well to bear in mind that no-one was taken off injured as a result of a deliberate assault nor did any player suffer broken bones during any of the several melees that took place.
That said, it is a match that will affect what happens in the future. Tyrone and Dublin now have "history" and it is not unlikely that they will meet later on in the year when the stakes are higher. If they do it will be interesting to see what happens. It is unlikely that we will witness similar scenes as Omagh on a dry, fast pitch but it may well have a psychic hangover. If it does that may only become evident in the type of tense, close struggle that we saw at the end of the drawn match between them in August, and for a while in the second half of the replay.
Dublin have banked some psychic capital certainly, but will it be enough to sustain them in the dog days of late summer and early autumn? Only time will tell but they will be happy with last Sunday, no matter what the short-term fall-out from the match might be. With an unfamiliar look about them, and several new players in key positions, they beat the All Ireland champions. Players like Kevin Bonner, Niall O'Shea and Denis Bastic clearly have the potential to thrive at this level, while David Henry is surely claiming a permanent place in the Dublin back line.
Tyrone will not be unduly upset although I would have liked to have been in the middle of the huddle they went into at the end of the match! What were they saying to one another? "Jaysus boys, we got what was coming to us". Hardly. "Let's put this behind us and move on." Sounds more like it. Mickey Harte will try and turn this setback and defeat into something positive in the same way as he has done with similar reversals and disappointments in the past. It will be interesting to see.
It will also be interesting to see how Tyrone's next series of opponents react to this. They have to go to Enniskillen next Sunday and you can bet your life that Fermanagh will not be spending the week listening to Charlie Mulgrew telling them. "Listen boys. Them Tyrone fellas have had a rough oul' week of it, so go easy on them".
Dublin, meanwhile, once the dust and the possible administrative repercussions have settled, will face into the future with a new confidence and a new determination. Monaghan come to Parnell Park on Sunday and the Dubs will be hoping to win that and collect two more points (assuming they still have the ones won last weekend) before heading into a short break and returning in March with a stronger panel. Again assuming that some obscure section of the Offences Against the State Act is not resurrected to justify them being given five bowlers in the Big House and deprived of citizenship.