Derry forward Emmett McGuckin has hit out at Tyrone substitute Cathal McCarron for the role he played in the second half incident which saw the Magherafelt player sent off in Sunday’s thrilling McKenna Cup tie at Owenbeg.
McGuckin was shown what looked a harsh second yellow card by Down referee Ciaran Branagan after appearing to be hauled to the floor by McCarron in the 42nd minute clash which saw both players booked. The Derry forward had already picked up a first half booking after a tussle with Red Hands’ full back Padraig Hampsey who was replaced by McCarron at half-time.
The dismissal proved decisive with Mickey Harte’s men eventually edging an absorbing clash by a single point but while McGuckin admits he was naive to become involved, he was far from happy with McCarron’s role in the incident.
“I thought it was harsh, especially with the circumstances of how it happened,” explained the Magherafelt player, “I would never say things about what another player did but what he did doesn’t belong on a football field. (It was the) Decisive part of the game, no doubt, and once I got sent off it put a lot of pressure on the rest of the team.
“There is not much you can do about it, you just have to get on with it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. From my own point of view, the first yellow card, again, it was nothing really but the referee is the man in charge and it’s up to him to make these decisions.
“I had my hands out as I fell but if the referee makes the decision then he makes the decision, you have to get on with it. I put the team under pressure because we went down to 14 men but I think overall, we did play some good football.”
Following a superb display against Antrim, McGuckin was enjoying another excellent game at full-forward and proving a real handful for the Tyrone full back line before his dismissal which he has vowed to learn from.
“With any full forward line, you are going to get ‘sticky’ markers and everybody knows if a corner-back gets a yellow card it’s going to be hard for them to play on so I don’t know if I was a danger man or if it was more a case of Hampsey was on a yellow card and had to be brought off.
“Look, it’s part of the game and you have to learn to live with it. Maybe, I need to learn to react better.”
The controversy somewhat overshadowed a superb game which was in the balance right until the final whistle.
Derry manager Damian Barton shuffled his pack from the victory over Antrim with eight changes to the starting 15 as Ryan Ferris, Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley and Conor Murphy were given a chance to impress.
And they did, especially in a first half where Derry played some delightful football. With McGuckin and Ryan Bell again pushed into a two man full-forward line, Conor Murphy was deployed deep and Tyrone spent much of the opening half trying to find the Dungiven player who ghosted between lines to great effect.
The movement of ‘Sammy’ Bradley, Ciaran McFaul and Benny Heron caused Tyrone a lot of problems with Emmet Bradley and Mark Lynch both capable of picking out a pass.
The needless loss of Justin McMahon to a first-half black card for dissent didn’t help Tyrone’s early malaise but despite the encouraging signs, McGuckin said there was still plenty to improve on.
“You always want to win. It’s far better being in a winning changing room than it is a losing changing room,” he added.
“The first half was very good at times but there is always room for improvement. It’s early days but there were encouraging signs and some decent football played.
“It is different with the bigger men in or around the square. Look, if I keep playing in there, then great, but if not I will keep working hard to try and make that position my own.
“There seems a bit more ball coming in and probably maybe it’s a bit quicker. It’s hard to get the ball into the full forward line in modern football. Everybody knows the way the game is so, as a forward, you have to live with whatever comes in.
“With me and Ryan (Bell) in there, we have played quite a bit together over the years and we play well together but there are plenty of boys capable of playing the same role so those jerseys will be hard fought, just as they are all over the field.”
With red cards, black cards, penalties, scuffles and some superb football, there were times the 5,179 spectators must have needed reminding this was still McKenna Cup they were witnessing.
Derry were brilliant at times in the opening half, building a 2-04 to 0-01 lead as Tyrone uncharacteristically shot seven first half wides. Benny Heron’s opening goal was a lovely low finish after running on to a breaking ball and slipping a low finish under Tyrone keeper Michael O’Neill.
McGuckin also did well to win the first half penalty for Derry who seemed to have finally found an clinical spot-kick expert in the form of Ryan Bell.
The concerns centred around how Tyrone, who had been ‘second fiddle’ for the first half turned around at only 2-05 to 1-05 behind after Patrick Quinn’s late first half goal. Derry should have been almost pout of sight and you don’t usually get a second chance against teams like Tyrone.
The red card made the second half difficult to analyse. Tyrone are past masters of exploiting an extra man and eventually did so but there was plenty pleasing about Derry’s application. With 14, they regrouped and shifted Mark Lynchh to the edge of the square in a ploy that almost won them the game.
Frustration was the obvious emotion after the game but the signs remain encouraging.
Derry: Thomas Mallon; Ryan Ferris, Dermot McBride, Oisin Duffy; Danny Heavron, Chrissy McKaigue, Mark Craig (1-1); Emmet Bradley, Mark Lynch (0-2, 2f); Ciaran McFaul, Christopher Bradley (0-1), Benny Heron (1-0); Emmett McGuckin, Ryan Bell (2-2, 2pen), Conor Murphy. (Subs) Karl McKaigue for O Duffy, 44mins; Enda Lynn for B Heron, 45mins; James Kielt for C Murphy, 52mins; Conor McAtamney for E Bradley, 56mins; Shane Mulgrew for C Bradley, 63mins; Peter Quinn for R Ferris, 65mins.
Tyrone: Michael O’Neill; Aidan McCrory, Padraig Hampsey, Jonathan Monroe (0-1); Conor Clarke, Justin McMahon, Niall Sludden (0-1); Padraig McNulty, Richard Donnelly (0-4); David Mulgrew (0-1), Peter Harte (0-1), Kieran McGreary; Darren McCurry (0-1), Conor McAliskey (0-5, 5f), Patrick Quinn (1-0). (Subs) Mark Bradley (0-1, 1f) for C Clarke, H/T; Cathal McCarron for P Hampsey, H/T; Sean Cavangh (0-1) for P Quinn, 41mins; Ronan O’Neill for K McGreary, 51mins; Cathal McShane for J Monroe, 72mins.
Black Card: Justin McMahon replaced by Mattie Donnelly, 17mins.
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)