Cynical and deliberate fouling in our games

August 13th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

The year was 1969, four minutes remaining in the All Ireland football semi-final between Kerry and Mayo. Kerry were literally hanging on to a one point lead by the skin of their proverbial teeth as they defended the Railway end goal in Croke Park.  A Mayo player was fouled around the middle of the field, Mayo's legendary center back Garda John Morley, (he was brutally murdered during a bank robbery in Roscommon in July 1980), took a quick free to Willie McGee who made straight for the Kerry goal. Seamus McGearailt was playing at left corner back that day. In an interview with me years later on Radio Kerrys Terrace Talk sports program he recalled what happened next. "Johnny Culloty was in goal and roared at me, 'Don't let him in', so i just pulled him down, prevented an almost certain goal. Joe Corcoran missed the resultant free and we went on to win the All Ireland that year and were rewarded with a trip around the world". The 1975 All Ireland final, Kerry captain Mickey Ned o Sullivan is flying through the Dublin defense towards the Canal goal in one of his thrilling solo runs when he is brutally stopped by a Dublin elbow to the head. He is stretchered off and is rushed to hospital; the late John Moloney referee that day takes no action against the culprit. Kerry wins the game.

We come forward to 2005; minutes remain in the All Ireland final, Tyrone leading by a goal, Kerry attacking in waves towards the Canal goal. Their most dangerous forward Colm Cooper and their top scorer that year with 4-23 to his name kicks the ball towards goal and begins his run for the return pass. Tyrone's Peter Canavan comes from behind the Kerry player and blatently drags him to the ground, preventing him from taking the return pass, the ball is no where near, no free is awarded, Tyrone win the final, 1-16 to 2-10. We are told cynical fouling has become prevalent in Gaelic football. As the fellow said "give me a break". Cynical fouling, has been, is, and will always be alive and well in our games. Cynical, deliberate fouling wins games, it's as simple as that. The county final of 1970 and I can see as clear as crystal in the minds eye an incident which encapsulates everything I have written here. I am in goal for East Kerry defending the so called Horans goal in Austin Stack Park; we are clinging on to a one goal lead, 1-15 to 0-15, just minutes remaining. Waterville are our opponents as we bid for three-in-a-row county titles.

Then comes the defining moment of the game. Mick o Dwyer one of the greatest club players I have ever seen secures possession and using his mighty strength tears in towards goal busting past a series of defenders. I have a clear view of the danger unfolding. He is just about to blast for goal, Mick o Connell is also available on the verge of the square to take a pass; a goal appears a certainty. Then one of our defenders, I can't recall who, catches o Dwyer by the jersey and literally drags him to the ground. The huge crowd is incensed and roars their disapproval but the equalizing goal is prevented, the resultant free is cleared and we go on to win the county championship, the following years Munster championship and the All ireland club final in Croke Park. All because of a barefaced cyclical foul.

Joe Brolly's recent tirade of hatred, that is what came across to me, towards Tyrone, Mickey Harte and Sean Cavanagh on television recently has engendered massive debate in relation to the way Tyrone play the game. As much as Brolly is correct in what he says he should never have attacked Sean Cavanagh the person. His comment in particular on national TV "you can forget about Sean Cavanagh as far as he is a man" was in my opinion an absolute disgrace and the fact that presenter Michael Lester did not stop him in his tracks made the whole sorry  outburst  even more disgraceful. Of course he is right and quite entitled to give out about cynicism but a personal attack such as this is extreme to say the least. Even Pat Spillane, Colm o Rourke and Lester appeared stunned as a livid Brolly lost the plot completely ranting and raving using words such as "a disgrace, absolutely rotten, total and absolute disgrace, a total obscenity".  There is no doubt but cynical fouling to prevent scores such as what I have described is a blight on our games, it also occurs frequently in hurling particularly in the large square.

At the moment it's not a sending off offence unless repeated, however that will change next year when the black card is introduced. Referees will then have to make huge decisions.  Nevertheless even this will not prevent what Joe Brolly lost the rag over. Players will continue to foul deliberately if such actions assure victory. Brolly is right in what he says but not the way he personalized Cavanagh, a magnificent footballer, and certainly not the way he said it. The one simple solution I believe which will cut out this cynicism in our games could be, when a free is award for a foul inside say thirty meters bring the ball forward to the twenty one and award two points for the resulting kick. This I firmly believe would change the whole mind set of defenders overnight.  While I always watch The Sunday Game the football panel is not my cup of tea. Some, not all of them are constantly trying to out do the other and can be very dismissive and disingenuous towards players and managers, amateurs unpaid, unlike the panelists. The hurling panels I find are a completely different breed. No smart comments or offensive remarks here, only honest, straight forward, constructive analysis from men who have played the greatest field game in the world.

Finally, love him or hate him and maddening and all as he can be, Brolly showed that he does have a softer side to his character after donating one of his kidneys last year to a club colleague of his from St. Brigid's in Belfast, Shane Finnegan, with whom he manages the club's under-10 team, for whom both Brolly and Finnegan's sons play. Sadly the transplant was not a success. But it was a magnificent gesture. So the next time you prepare to spit fury at your television screen at the former kiss-blowing Derry native after his latest opinion-splitting rant, just remember that he's not such a bad chap after all. In fact behind it all, (and I whisper it), I like the guy.

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