Colm O'Rourke: Galvin furore shows double standard of video evidence
Paul Galvin should have got the benefit of the doubt over Cork incident, says Colm O'Rourke
There are few players who can raise as much heated debate among fellow players, officials and supporters at the moment as Paul Galvin.
Last week, his appeal against an eight-week suspension was unsuccessful so he can more or less write off the league. As things stand, he won't be back until the last round against Monaghan.
His most recent brush with the law came against Cork in a second-round league clash. These sort of games between the counties can have more of an edge than championship matches and a lot of old bile tends to surface. There were plenty of spats before Galvin and Eoin Cadogan were involved in a wrestling match with Cadogan appearing to be the dominant force in the exchange. Two red cards ensued and as Galvin has been sent off for the same offence in the last year, his sentence was doubled.
Now many won't have the slightest bit of sympathy for him. Most players and supporters of other counties see him as the arrogant, aggressive face of football in Kerry, that he is the author of his own misfortune and whatever he gets is good enough for him.
His run-in with Paddy Russell won't be forgotten in official circles; then he was sent off in last year's Munster championship while he was sailing close to the wind in the first round of the league this year when he brushed against the referee near the end of the game against Dublin. So for a particular constituency it is 'sentence him quick and then see what the crime is'.
To many in Kerry, though, he is seen as the easy target and the campaign to Free The North Kerry One has started. He is hardly the modern day Dreyfus or Napoleon, who were exiled for debatable crimes, but the fear is that Galvin's exile might be self-imposed and that the Kerry team will be the loser.
Again, that would cut very little ice with outsiders, but it would be very tough on Kerry if Galvin jumped ship on the back of official persecution. With Tommy Walsh in Australia, Darragh ó Sé gone fishing and doubts over another couple, Kerry might only win four or five All-Irelands in the next decade.
Galvin is no altar boy, but even allowing for serious lapses of discipline, it is increasingly obvious that he is a dog with a bad name and an easy target for both opposition players and referees. There is no doubt opposing players wind him up. If they scratch the surface a bit, there is every likelihood the volcano will erupt. Of course it is up to Galvin to deal with this, but in the last two sendings-off against Cork it would appear he was more sinned against than sinning.
If the referee assumes he is going to be up to something, then he is on a loser straightaway. But surely it should not be beyond the combined abilities of the seven officials in charge of a game to keep a special eye on Galvin and his marker to decide whether he is getting a bit of hassle off the ball. If Galvin is the aggressor, then by all means throw the book at him.
It was clear last week that official GAA was not for turning. If there was no clear evidence of striking -- and television pictures seemed to indicate a poor wrestling contest, with Cadogan the only one who was in a position to perform a half nelson -- then Galvin was entitled to the benefit of the doubt. If replays of games are being used to execute, then it is only fair the same system can exonerate.
Kerry County Board have certainly put up a stiff defence but the cumbersome state of GAA justice is hard to overcome. Why there is any need for more than one disciplinary body and one appeal group is beyond me. On the other side of this is the time and effort which it takes to defend a player from Kerry, or indeed any other county, where travel to Dublin means at least a day lost from work. Surely all this needs to be done through some form of video conferencing. At least then after a bad decision you would not have to make a long drive in bad humour.
Most have tired at this stage of Galvin's constant battles with authority and are quick to condemn even when the facts are a bit sketchy. This time round he has drawn the short straw but any thought of retirement should not be contemplated. At this stage, Galvin is probably feeling more than a little paranoid but big men bounce back from adversity. The fire might need dousing but the Galvin show will still be a big attraction in the summer. Even without league football.
The decision of the GAA to implement an under 50 age category for referees at inter-county level is a welcome development. The speed of play now is such that few older referees could expect to keep up while it will open the door for young referees to get big games. It would be a very healthy state for the GAA if most referees were in their 30s, as is the case in a lot of other sports. Up to now the argument was that there were too many older men dominating; now at least those who are young and have ambition will have fewer road blocks in their way. A good ref who keeps up with play could expect to run six or seven kilometres in a fast championship game -- more than some of the players. A hard act for a middle-aged man.
So now there will be opportunities for younger men so long as they don't mind being subjected to criticisms of their eyesight, parentage, place of origin, perceived bias and a thousand other things. And if your team gets beaten, you can always arrange a mob to jostle or assault the ref. No wonder there are no long queues to join up.
Maybe it is time to put women in charge of the men's game. Perhaps then players and supporters would not be as verbally aggressive. That though might be expecting a bit much. National pastimes take a long time to change and baiting of GAA refs is one of the most popular.
Anyway, having younger referees is a good move and it was an accepted part of the game 50 or 60 years ago. Peter McDermott of Meath refereed the All- Ireland final in 1953 and played in it the following year. That is not likely to ever happen again. Yet maybe it is time to make the great leap forward and give this year's final to Paul Galvin if Kerry are not involved. Some poachers make great gamekeepers.