Be careful not to bite the hand that feeds you

Few sporting competitors, individual or otherwise, were vilified with such sustained – and largely unwarranted – venom as were the magnificent Meath team who were at their zenith from 1986 to 1991. Yes, they were a fiercely physically competitive team. So were those they encountered.

That’s because teams of that era played football the way it should be played, and the way it still ought to be. Now, what passes for football occupies a completely different horizon. Not necessarily a better one. And just as in the past, lampooning that Meath side – who were tremendous crowd pullers – amounted to biting the hand that fed the GAA copious helpings of income, the Dublin team currently in the ascendency attract plenty of heat too.

Look, as someone for whom the success of Meath (and Dunboyne) teams is important on levels far more significant than sporting ones – and being domiciled as close to the Dublin border as is the case – it’s disheartening and enviously upsetting to see the chief rivals enjoying such a period of sustained brilliance.

That’s not meant in any sense of bitterness or disrespect towards Jim Gavin’s side. Much more a sense of growing disillusionment at how far adrift our lads have fallen of the standard setters and indeed other prominent counties. Few can argue that Dublin have been the best outfit over the last half decade or so.

However, equally recognisable from our past has been the propensity to have a ‘pop’ at those enjoying spells of dominance. Acknowledgement of same, though, cannot disguise the fact that, while all successful teams have been known to sail close to the wind (see Kilkenny) there have been occasions this season when the newly installed kingpins got carried away in a gust.

Far from the first and unlikely to be the last to do so. Some transgressions were sanctioned, others weren’t. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of all those matters is a sense that off-field nuances now seem to take on a greater sense of priority – in some cases at least – than what transpires between the lines.

Don’t crab with Dublin or other teams for utilising the intricacies of an unwieldy, dysfunctional disciplinary system. Issue could and should more easily be taken with the absurdity of the system and the haphazard and wholly inconsistent manner in which the workings thereof are applied.

As with the great Meath men referred to earlier, there’s a tendency to pick holes in everything whoever happens to be going well does. Taken from another angle, it wouldn’t be difficult to consider that the GAA at the very highest level is contradicting itself. The President, after all, launched a scathing, irrational and ill-judged attack on The Sunday Game.

That must ludicrous and inflammatory of phrases ‘Trial by media’ gets a laborious airing in such instances. Of course, that only occurs because unprecedented account appears to be taken of what’s highlighted by analysts. Surely he who is in charge of the Association should be more occupied with the unsatisfactory elements therein – not to mention a scenario where an increasing number of refereeing calls are flippantly overturned.

Again, that’s no reflection on those who are able to work through things to their advantage. No, instead of lambasting the views of pundits, rather than paying attention to what are only opinions, more credence should be afforded to a realisation that there are major malfunctions relating to the administration and processing of disciplinary matters.

The Sunday Game is an Irish sporting institution. Thence did many of us attain our formative grounding in all things GAA. Going back to the times of the late Mick Dunne. Match Of The Day rightly holds similar status in soccer. It’s unlikely, though, that the English FA put as much weight on what Alan Shearer et al say – or custodians of rugby, horse racing or any other sport pay as much attention to a highlights show – as do the keepers of our national games.

Thus, the blue ribbons had hardly been entwined on Sam Maguire when the inquest into an alleged incident began. Right, there’s never smoke without fire, something probably did happen. Both players playing it down thereafter is neither here nor there. What is plain is that there were eight officials in charge of the game, surely if there was something which merited action they could, should and would have dealt with it.

Of course things get missed, these people are human. What is essentially dissecting match officials performance on television and acting thereon in the administration of discipline is not the way to go. Engaging in such practices only detracts from the not inconsiderable achievement it is to reign supreme in ones chosen code and, altogether more glaringly, undermines the efforts of match officials.

And what use is there in issuing an admonishment at the end of this part of the season that would have very little lasting impact? For things to work properly, there needs to be a total overhaul of disciplinary structure and administration.

Not ground-breaking measures either. The GAA has benefitted previously from adopting dictums applicable in other areas and can do so again. Namely, the broadening of the use of Hawk Eye to adjudicate on matters other than contentious scores, the appointment of a citing commissioner whose responsibility it would be to deal with matters not processed during game time and another revamp of the suspension and appeal system.

Those few simple alterations would make a manifest difference. Don’t hold your breath in anticipation of their introduction though.



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