Mickey Harte's comments on the referee are bang on and it's about time somebody said it 5 years ago

Mickey Harte's comments on the referee are bang on and it's about time somebody said it

There was one point of contention in Clones on Sunday.

Mark Bradley scored a point late in the second half. After the white flag was raised, the kickout set up and the scoreboard changed, the Tyrone forward was issued a black card and given his marching orders.

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He was punished for an infringement on Neil McGee, said to have dragged him down before bursting out for the ball. The linesman spotted it and the referee acted in hindsight but the question that was raised was why did the score stand? If there was a foul, why was there no free out given?

Tyrone didn't just get a fresh pair of legs on the field for committing a cynical offence, they also got a point for it. Some punishment. Had that been a closer game in the Ulster semi-final, there'd have been uproar.

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Apart from that though, David Gough had a terrific game taking charge of the most anticipated fixture of the championship so far.

On a hot day with a boiling crowd and two of Ulster's fiercest rivals, the Meath whistler went virtually unnoticed for 70-odd minutes in St. Tiernach's Park and the players got on with the battle.

His consistency was exceptional. His attitude was tough. His decisions around the middle allowed the game to flow into such an open match that there were 26 scores from play on show in Monaghan in a northern clash that the country was wincing for in the build-up to.

Tyrone kicked 1-21 against Donegal. Only one of those scores came from a free kick. They got nothing easy from the referee but the marker was laid down early and everyone knew where they stood.

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"The defensive work was excellent and I must say that the referee had a big hand in that," Mickey Harte acknowledged Gough's display after the game.

"He had a certain standard of refereeing there which the players caught onto very quickly. There are other days some of those turnovers would've been fouls but he didn't give them as fouls and our players then played, because of that, in that particular way.

"Of course, Donegal had the chance to do the same thing, we didn't get them handy either.

"I thought it was a really good performance from David Gough. If we had performances like that every day we went out - and not just because we won the game - I'd be very happy."

Donegal scored four free kicks from the boot of Paddy McBrearty against Tyrone. They were hit hard and they were hit often by the Red Hands' swarm defence but they could have no complaints with how the opposition approached the game and with how the referee dealt with it either.

Afterwards, Rory Gallagher simply admitted that Tyrone were the better team.

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Gough had long since slipped out when the dust had settled but, Christ, these boys get enough criticism when they don't do well that it doesn't seem right to ignore it when they're good.

The media and fans adopt a policy of negative reinforcement with referees. We holler and wail at them and lambaste them when they do something wrong. When they do something right, we simply take away that feedback. We don't encourage it - we just remove the negativity.

It's a cruel form of behaviour modification.

And, on Sunday, Gough had both sets of supporters baying for his blood at stages early in that Ulster semi-final. Tyrone fans weren't happy when Mark Bradley was getting hammered by McGrath in the corner. Donegal fans weren't happy when Ryan McHugh was thrown to the turf. But the ref didn't get involved in the emotion of it all - he had drawn a line and he applied the rules accordingly with remarkable composure.

Towards the end of the game, in the space of 30 seconds two Tyrone men were dragged by the neck viciously and sent to the ground. One was from a player just back from a bloody nose. The other seemed to be in pure frustration. The crowd were not happy but Gough was analytical - two yellow card offences warranted two yellow cards. Simple as that.

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He wasn't caught up in the hysteria or the occasion. He played the game and, because of that, everyone knew where they stood. Because of that, we got a hell of an encounter.

Well done, David.