Eugene McGee: Galvin guilty of crossing line too often
Published 15/06/2010 | 05:00
Hard men -- a euphemism that has served the GAA well over the years. It is an expression that has covered a multitude of players, from tough, no-holds-barred competitors largely operating within the rules, to plain gurriers dressed up in county jerseys, who seem to think that wearing a GAA shirt allows them to behave like a street thugs -- and get away with it.
The one thing that distinguishes them all is the loyalty their actions engender among their own followers.
This applies whether the 'hard man' is obeying the rules or abusing them. Many of the followers of a county or club love both categories of 'hard man,' but nowadays there is only slightly less tolerance than there used to be for the real hatchet men.
Television has been the biggest factor in highlighting the violent players who have no scruples about breaking the rules.
The GAA had a pathetic record in the dim and distant past in punishing players who behaved like thugs. The omerta of the GAA -- see no evil, hear no evil -- was the most powerful factor in allowing dirty players to go unpunished and every loophole was used to preserve that.
Years ago it was common for referees to be 'got at' before their report was submitted and many a brutal deed was watered down or left vague enough to allow the committee in charge to claim they did not have adequate proof to punish the offender.
But television has largely changed all that because dirty or dangerous play is often highlighted, even when the referee either has not seen or does not report what happens. In the Kerry-Cork game last Sunday, there was a very clear picture of an incident involving Paul Galvin of Kerry and Eoin Cadogan of Cork in the 68th minute.
The pictures seem to show Galvin clawing with his fingers at the mouth and face of Cadogan. We all know the horror television viewers feel when rugby players act in a similar way and such incidents incur very heavy punishment.
There is, of course, a record of controversy between these two players as they were both sent off in the league game between the counties last spring.
Referee Pat McEnaney, who presided efficiently in this game, took no action on the matter. That means he either did not see it or else thought it was not serious enough to dole out any punishment.
Thanks to 'The Sunday Game' close-ups, everybody could see what happened and if the relevant GAA body wishes, they can ask McEnaney if he wants to add anything to his report.
Galvin is one of Kerry's three most important players, along with Colm 'Gooch' Cooper and Kieran Donaghy. He was, to some extent, blackguarded by the GAA and the public over his controversy with Paddy Russell and the infamous book-throwing incident.
However, as an elite Kerry footballer, he sometimes lacks the level of personal discipline that all great sports people should have. He is frequently getting into scrapes with opponents and while he can certainly claim that he is often provoked, that is not an excuse.
No sports performer can be considered great unless he is able to control himself in difficult situations. And how much provocation do Donaghy and Cooper receive from opponents, yet still remain under control?
But in Kerry GAA circles there will be no criticism of Galvin. His immense talents are accorded the same levels of admiration as many of the great heroes of the past who never had any discipline problems.
Like all GAA people, winning is No 1 for Kerry, regardless of how that is achieved. The GAA has a record of over-tolerance when it comes to discipline and this will not change because the GAA public do not want it to, no matter how much the television viewers shout 'tut, tut' during the 'The Sunday Game'.