Saturday 25 October 2014

Colm O'Rourke: Players, forget Twitter and do your talking on the pitch

Rants on social media are not good for a team and managers should intervene, says Colm O'Rourke

Published 08/07/2012 | 17:00

Another routine week for the GAA. Referees getting it hot and heavy, accusations of a rigged draw, a couple of controversial sendings-off and some football too. Business as usual.



All is not fair in love and war. In the past, I have criticised those who post messages anonymously on websites that are critical of players and managers. It is a cowardly practice but nobody should pass any remarks on those comments, however hurtful, as any man who won't put his name to something is not a man at all.

Things have moved on again in the social media with a lot of players on Twitter, which to most older supporters of the GAA is absolute double dutch. Anyway, it is another method of allowing the great unwashed to have access to what players are thinking, although some would be better off not thinking aloud. No matter how I look at this, I cannot see what value there is for a player or team in having someone publicly declare their thoughts when they are still playing.

If I was involved with a county team, I would have a complete ban on this sort of thing. Players should do their talking on the pitch. The private frustrations felt by players should be kept private.

Liam O'Neill took exception to comments about the qualifiers draw being a fix, especially with Cavan and Kildare paired. This draw is merely Murphy's law in action. The conspiracy theorists are everywhere but nobody should take the bait. I heard it for many years when I was involved in the draw with RTE. Accusations that it was rigged, that it did not take place live and that there were several draws until the right pairs came out were just a sample of the comments. The best policy is to agree with the accusers as they're just trying to wind you up.

Some referees have been getting a hard time too which is slightly unfair and the GAA will have to act soon to outlaw comments on social media sites by players. It serves no useful purpose to have referees hung out to dry in this way.

That being said, there needs to be a significant improvement from referees, who are attracting too much attention.

Before last week's match in Croke Park between Meath and Kildare, the Meath supporters were a bit paranoid about the appointment of Michael Collins. Some even went to the trouble of getting statistics on frees, for and against, for all his Meath games, and the fact that Meath never seemed to win any game under him. Nobody appeared to ask the obvious question about whether Meath were good enough to win those matches. That might get in the way of a good witch-hunt.

After last Sunday Kildare must be convinced that there is some conspiracy from Rome, Brussels or Croke Park which dictates most big decisions go against them. Michael Collins did not cover himself in glory again. Blowing the whistle when Cian Ward had just shot for a point at the end of the first half could have caused a mini riot if it had gone over. His yellow card to Daryl Flynn when his legs got tangled with Damian Carroll was unwarranted. A little while later, he correctly yellow-carded Flynn for a wild pull on a ball on the ground. Two yellows equal red and the game certainly changed.

It brings me back to an old bugbear of mine-- referees are giving out the first yellow too easily. It looked early in the championship as if there was a change of mindset but in this case it came back to bite Michael Collins and Kildare. The argument is made that these things even themselves out over a year, but sometimes they don't and it does not excuse bad refereeing. Flynn gets no marks for cop on either. Being on a yellow should have meant keeping his nose clean.

The referee also got it wrong by throwing up the ball which led to the Meath goal, but for all that Kildare came across as complacent and could not change when the pressure came on. No player, no part of the management team, ever admits to this, but it happens at every level. There was a perception that Kildare would win easily and while some sides can drag themselves through on sheer class, Kildare depend on hard graft. That being said, they may still be a force before the harvest is stashed away.

It was a good day for Meath after several winters, springs and summers of discontent. And few would begrudge Seamus McEnaney his day in the sun even if Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney appeared very slow to congratulate him after the match. These things are always done through gritted teeth by all managers but they are a necessary evil.

There must have been times over the last few months when McEnaney felt like John the Baptist with his head being sought on a plate. One swallow does not make a summer but there was a hint of pace, style and spirit which looked to have gone from Meath.

However, Meath players are judged on how they play in a Leinster final against Dublin in the brilliant, hostile atmosphere which Croke Park will be on that day. Dublin did what they had to do, and they will be a horse of a different colour in two weeks.

The first provincial final is today with Cork and Clare meeting in Munster. Over the next few weeks there are big games everywhere and there could be better scheduling. Some of these provincial finals should be fixed for a Saturday evening; the players certainly would not object and the crowds would probably be bigger.

Today is a very big day for Clare. Even getting to a final restores belief that keeping up hard work will eventually gain a reward. Manager Michael McDermott is doing the right thing by adopting a totally positive approach and he has experience of coaching successfully at all levels. He also has at least two class players in David Tubridy, who will score plenty if he gets room, while Gary Brennan is as good as any Cork player around the midfield.

To patronise Clare would be wrong. They are playing one of the best teams in the country, whose ambitions, irrespective of what they say, are way beyond today. Cork will find it hard to be as motivated as they were against Kerry and that is what Clare will hope for. That and a good start.

But Cork have a panel of proven winners and it will be an opportunity for Daniel Goulding and Ciarán Sheehan to get prepared for Croke Park. Hopefully Clare will get three early goals and make a real game of it. That is unlikely but all neutrals will hope for a proper contest.

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