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'Was the sledging actively promoted within the Tyrone dressing room? Only they can answer that'

Colm Cooper on the “anti-football stuff” that went on when Tyrone and Kerry clashed in the last decade.

Image: ©INPHO

Updated at 20.20

COLM COOPER HAS opened up on the underhand tactics Tyrone employed against Kerry during their great rivalry in the mid-2000s.

The Kingdom lifted four All-Irelands during the naughties, but Tyrone held the upper hand in the heated rivalry and beat Kerry on the way to titles in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

Writing in his new autobiography Gooch, Cooper described the “anti-football stuff” that went on when they played Mickey Harte’s side, particularly from tigerish Red Hand defender Ryan McMenamin.

“Tyrone were different,” Cooper writes. “They were the first team I came up against who seemed to regard trash-talk as being just as fundamental to the game as tackling. And they were relentless in 2005. Right from the throw-in, a constant commentary.

“Ryan McMenamin would be my marker in that year’s All-Ireland final and Ricey almost prided himself on being able to wind a forward up. Personally I never minded playing on him because he was never the stickiest corner-back in the world. Maybe his mouthing was to compensate for that.

“He’d hit you the odd dig into the back too and try to annoy you with these little pinches, hoping you might throw an elbow back and get the line. Tyrone were pushing the boundaries that year — maybe overstepping them at times — and who could really blame them?

“Bottom line, if winning demanded Tyrone be nasty, they were more than willing to be that. They were testing you in every single way. But the big issue for me was that they were allowed to do it. That’s the bit I really hated it, the stuff that would go unpunished.

“Was the sledging actively promoted within the Tyrone dressing room? Only they can answer that. But almost every last one of them seemed willing to do it.

“This anti-football stuff. Winning by hook or by crook. Horrible.”

Pascal McConnell Tyrone goalkeeper Pascal McConnell Source: INPHO

Cooper also described an incident in the first-half of the ’05 All-Ireland final, when he suffered an eye injury after a clash with Tyrone goalkeeper Pascal McConnell.

“I was making a run in around the penalty spot, just trying to lose my man. And Tyrone’s goalie, Pascal McConnell, kept charging out towards me, as if trying to block my run. On this one occasion, his glove made contact with my face.

“I got this horrible sensation of grit in my eye and immediately went down. And all around me became a symphony directed towards the referee Mick Monahan. Diving ref, diving, diving, diving.

“Monahan comes over to me and says ‘whatever you do, don’t retaliate’,” Cooper added.

“Rightly or wrongly, I reckon I’ve just been taken out of the game, possibly in a premeditated move, and the ref’s only answer is to tell me not to hit back.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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