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Howard: We didn't even talk about it at break

Extreme Omagh weather conditions no excuse for under-par Dublin performance

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Brian Howard at the announcement of Kinetica Sports as Official Sports Nutrition Partner to Dublin GAA

Brian Howard at the announcement of Kinetica Sports as Official Sports Nutrition Partner to Dublin GAA

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Brian Howard of Dublin in action against Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Healy Park in Omagh

Brian Howard of Dublin in action against Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Healy Park in Omagh

SPORTSFILE

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Brian Howard at the announcement of Kinetica Sports as Official Sports Nutrition Partner to Dublin GAA

Saturday's brawl in Omagh was an isolated incident, according to Brian Howard, and any move to prohibit teams from simultaneously entering tunnel areas is unnecessary.

"I've been playing for Dublin for three or four years and there's been nothing like that before," argued the Raheny man, speaking at a promotional event yesterday.

"And it wasn't even too bad."

It must be said that Howard is not ideally placed to evaluate the gravity of the incident.

According to himself, "I was first off (the pitch)," at half-time in Dublin's first defeat of the year to Tyrone in Healy Park, a match marred by the melee that erupted second later.

"So I was actually in the dressing room sitting down, and heard a bit of commotion. And then it was all pretty much over".

The incident is currently under investigation by the CCCC but given the lack of clarity in the broadcast footage, it is expected that no-one will face any sanction, although both county boards are likely to be hit with fines.

"When we went in, we weren't even talking about it," Howard revealed.

"If it was after the game, maybe there would be more chat about it on the way home.

Damage

"But at half time we were just talking about what was going wrong for the first half, and what we had to work on for the second half."

Tyrone were first out on the pitch for the second half but Howard insisted that the only thing being discussed in the Dublin dressing-room was how to secure two valuable league points.

"We came out after half-time expecting 15 on 15, then (referee) Cormac (Reilly) went over the (Pádraig) Hampsey and gave him a black card."

Afterwards, Mickey Harte suggested that the congestion of bodies in the tunnel was "a good thing," because "nobody could get doing any damage to each other".

And Howard pointed out that "none of their players were injured, none of our players (were injured)".

Of the players that started the game, only Dublin debutant Eoin O'Brien failed to emerge for the second half and he was understood to have been a tactical sacrifice from Dublin management to give Jack McCaffrey his first game time of the season.

"I think it was blown completely out of proportion," Howard went on. "But that's not up to me to comment on, I was in the dressing room at the time, that's the honest truth".

Whether the game should have been played in the first place was another bone of contention on Saturday night.

Asked if he had ever played a match in such adverse conditions, Howard confirmed: "No, I can't say I have.

"You don't pay much notice to the rain," he stressed, "you're so engrossed in the game.

"But the wind was a factor, just trying to kick-pass the ball.

"Dean (Rock) had a shot in the first half, going on target, most days would have gone over the black spot, but was blown off target.

"So it took a bit of getting used to.

"In the warm-up, we sort of altered the kick-pass and hand-pass to make sure the basic skills were on, but they weren't up to our standards on Saturday."

In the circumstances, the Healy Park pitch held up remarkably well.

Lengthy

A lengthy pitch inspection beforehand by referee Cormac Reilly revealed there were patches of the playing surface where water had congregated where the ball didn't bounce so much as an inch.

"The centre channel was a bit mucky, but when you're in the game you just go after the ball, try get on it," Howard explained.

"You had to alter the style in terms of bouncing the ball, soloing the ball."

Yet the accepted wisdom - that the atrocious conditions suited Tyrone more than Dublin - is one Howard rejects out of hand.

"There was a consensus around the northern teams that they're very defensive, but they're not any more.

"I know last year when Tyrone came to Croke Park (for a league meeting in March)", Howard recalled, "they were kicking the ball, so credit to them.

"They can adapt, and just played the conditions better.

"It was the same for both teams, not suited them better, but they just played them better.

"It's easy to blame the conditions," the Raheny man concluded, "but we know we weren't up to our own standard."