Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball

'It is never a red card' | Paul Caffrey defends John Small's hit on Eoghan McLaughlin

John Small's robust tackle on Eoghan McLaughlin during the All-Ireland semi-final did not merit a...

'It is never a red card' | Pau...

'It is never a red card' | Paul Caffrey defends John Small's hit on Eoghan McLaughlin

John Small's robust tackle on Eoghan McLaughlin during the All-Ireland semi-final did not merit a red card, according to Paul Caffrey.

Caffrey, who joined Joe Molloy and Billy Joe Padden on Off The Ball to react to Mayo's superb victory over Dublin, said that Small's tackle was "very hard" but ultimately fair.

"I have watched it back several times in slow motion and for me, it is never a red card," Caffrey said.

"The hit was on in terms of Small making contact. I think he went in very hard and very physically with his shoulder.

"The mistake for me is the referee is so close to the incident, you know very quickly if something is dangerous in terms of the player hitting the ground.

"I thought it was a really bad call to let the play go on. I did not even think it was a foul at the time but once you see a player go down crumbling like that, you know the contact has been serious. You have to stop the game."

Eoghan McLaughlin is on the ground after a tackle from Dublin player, John Small Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

While Padden accepted that there was no malice on the part of Small, he ultimately disagreed with Caffrey's assessment of the situation.

"You could see Small lining McLaughlin up for the shoulder and that is all fine," Padden said.

"It is inter-county football, you hit him as hard as you can and as fair as you can. If you throw your body into the challenge, you have to know if you make contact with an opponent's head, even though it was not Small's intention, it is a red card.

"You have to have care when you are trying to lay a hit on like that, that you are confident you are going to hit him shoulder to shoulder. By all means, hit them as hard as you can then.

"If you mistime it or if you mislocate it, as was the case in this instance and go a bit high, then it is a red card."

'Small's first contact is shoulder to shoulder'

McLaughlin certainly felt the effects of Small's challenge. The Mayo man was stretchered off after the tackle, much to John Horan's displeasure.

While Padden firmly believes that the first point of contact was shoulder to head, Caffrey contended that Small initially hit McLaughlin's shoulder and the follow-through was the cause of the damage.

Bryan Walsh celebrates Mayo's win over Dublin Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"For me, at the game and since, I find it hard to believe it was an actual foul," Caffrey continued.

"The actual contact is very much shoulder to shoulder. Small just hit him so hard, McLaughlin's body rocked. The initial contact is shoulder to shoulder."

Caffrey went on to critique referee Conor Lane's officiating on the day, a theme that has emerged since the full-time whistle was blown at Croke Park.

"I think Conor Lane had a poor game. The duty of care is on the referee, not on Small coming in making a legitimate challenge," he said.

Mayo players protest referee's decision to not punish John Small Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Both Caffrey and Padden expressed their concern for McLaughlin and wished him a speedy recovery ahead of the final. It has yet to be confirmed by Mayo GAA whether or not he will be in line to face Kerry on September 4th.

Kerry, as things stand, are automatically through to the final as Tyrone were forced to pull out of their semi-final after the senior squad were incapacitated by high numbers of COVID-19 infections.

Tyrone manager, Brian Dooher has said the county may attempt to appeal to the GAA to see whether or not the semi-final clash can be rescheduled.

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