Another week, another mess for a GAA referee to deal with. Consequently more bad press for the Association. Obviously, nobody – you’d hope – would deliberately start a ruckus, but the main talking points this week seem to be how these incidents are (a) dealt with and (b) reported on.
Let’s deal with the second part of that first. At the outset here, it should be pointed out that, having served as PRO of my local club for 11 years and working as a journalist I’ve seen both sides of the incident involving the Cahir GAA Club in Co Tipperary which has gained plenty of media traction in the last while.
If you haven’t come across the story – Cahir’s Tom Delaney was sent off in an underage game in the Premier County and thereafter was on the receiving end of some serious flak from certain sections of the media, at local level and further afield.
Firstly, looking at it from the viewpoint of the Cahir people, they are to be admired and applauded for sticking up for their player and calling out what they feel are flaws in the reporting of the matter. I have been in that position before, having to defend one of our members (more than once) from unwarranted and disproportionate scapegoating.
With club cap on, our case and the one in Tipp were not dissimilar. The epitome of lazy, shoddy journalism. In fact, speaking as a journalist, taking what was contained in the Cahir statement (easily available online) to be accurate, that which caused the grievance is actually embarrassing to a journalist.
If you are going to comment on an unsavoury incident, it is a deriliction of duty as well as downright disrespectful to fail to mention that a player from both sides was dismissed. Plus, if as appears to be the case, a melee ensued which culminated in the match being abandonned, there’s no way that can all be pinned on one player either.
Mind you, being disproportionate about things seems to be in vogue with the GAA when it comes to disciplinary matters. At the time of typing, the maximum suspension which can be dolled out by the association is 96 weeks – basically two playing seasons. But, if proposals going before Central Council over the weekend are carried, that will increase to 240 weeks.
240 weeks equates to five playing seasons. Now, I don’t know about you, but, with most things in life, if I’m away from it for five years, there’s no going back there. If it’s lifetime bans the GAA want, just come out and say it. Don’t be trying to sugarcoat it by listing it in weeks.
However, to my mind, that is a road they should be very wary of going down. After all, the Clogherhead Dreadnots club in Co Louth were once ‘Expelled for life’ in 1928 after a player most likely told a referee a few home truths. Naturally and thankfully that didn’t stick.
What’s more, there are people who committed real crimes and got less than five years. Sure there are gangsters in positions of influence who have never done a day in a miniature bedroom.
Though to be clear here, should the GAA crack down on unsavoury business? Of course they should, but, and this is only my opinion, going from two years to five is akin to falling off the frying pan and bouncing into the fire.
A case of knee jerk reactionism gone into overdrive. That said, additional proposals aimed at reforming the suspensions and appeals system within the GAA are to be welcomed. Of course anybody should have the right to appeal, and in some cases appeals have proven to been extremely well founded. However, surely there has to be a point at where the appeals process becomes exhausted.
For practical and logistical reasons. More than that, though, out of respect for referees who administrator red cards and committees whom thereafter propose and impose suspensions. If you were a member of either of the aforementioned groups of people, why would you bother taking up a role with either body if there was a fair possibility your work therein was going to be overruled and/or thrown out altogether.
Now, you’d think with the Cahir situation and the proposed changes regarding suspensions that would be enough brouhaha for the GAA to become embroiled in for one week. Not the colour of it. Pun entirely intended. It appears its alright for the association to jump from the frying pan into the fire on some issues but they are still not prepared to go over the rainbow for others.
You see, Mayo GAA, to their admirable credit, wanted to include the rainbow colours – in support of the LGBT community – but, shock, horror, the Brain(less) Trust have for reasons best known to themselves and unfathomable to the rest of us poured cold water on the idea.
Actually, it’s not that difficult to decipher at all, they probably deferred to their ‘We don’t get involved in such issues’ bovine excrement. No, apart from having a certain weasel inter county manager poke their nose into abortion, same-sex marriage and any other issues that have absolutely nothing to do with them.
Aside from the fact that it must be a source of considerable embarrassment to the hierarchy, it’s grossly unfair and discriminatory to the people whom it effects. Just as not having wheelchair access on the Hogan Stand side of Croke Park. So much for “Where we all belong”…