Eugene McGee: No place for sin bin among Larry and traditional Gaels
I was waiting to hear from my old friend Larry McGann of Knocknavanna Gaels for a while, because I knew he was sure to comment on the Football Review Committee (FRC), so I was not disappointed when the phone rang last week.
"Look, a mhic, I see where you are chairman of this crowd in the FRC and you are trying to change things about football. Sure what's wrong with football? Wasn't the championship fine this year and everybody was happy?
"I know it was different this time last year after that Dublin-Donegal semi-final with a 0-8 to 0-6 scoreline and we were all tearing our hair out, but the whole thing changed this year and Donegal flew through the All-Ireland with that McGuinness lad being treated like the greatest ever manager.
"This is what happens in football and I remember in the 1970s when the hand-pass came into the game. That time you could hand-pass the ball into the net and Kerry did it in bagfuls."
Larry continued: "I remember you crowd in the media saying then that this was the beginning of the end for football, that the game would be destroyed and nobody would ever bother going to watch football again.
"But after a couple of years the hand-pass scores were stopped and the game went from strength to strength -- like what happened in the past 12 months."
When Larry gets going like this, cutting across him is tricky, but I did manage to nip in and point out that nobody is saying football is in serious trouble; that it's more a case of making some fairly small changes and that we could make a lot of people very happy by bringing in a few new rules. I walked into that one.
"Look here," exclaimed Larry, "I saw some place that you were talking about bringing in this sin bin.
"The only sin bin I ever heard of was the one we used to call 'going to confession,' but I'm sure the fellows playing today wouldn't know much about that.
"We used to get a complete pardon when we went to that sin bin, but you crowd want to knock a player out of the game for 10 minutes in your bin.
"And if he is caught doing something nasty later on, he could be sent to the sin bin again. And how many can the referees have in this sin bin at the same time? How many bins have you got?"
In fairness to Larry, over the years, he does make an attempt to see both sides -- his way. "I know lots of football people are very annoyed at these players who pretend to be injured to stop the play and behave as if they were on their last legs. I can't stick that carry-on.
"When I was playing for Knocknavanna Gaels it was a badge of honour to never lie down in a game, no matter how hard you were hit.
"You were letting down the parish if you lay down and admitted that the other fella got the better of you.
"Now it is the opposite -- they lie down even when they are not hit. Maybe you should put them wimps who lie down into that sin bin."
I started to explain to Larry that we're trying to put a stop to the sort of deliberate, cynical fouling that annoys so many people and he seemed to stand back and think.
"Well, maybe you crowd have a point about that and it can look desperate on the television. But for God's sake don't take the manly hitting out of football or I will never talk to you again."
"Don't worry Larry," I said, "that won't happen."
Oh what a world for Brady
While players performing in two different sports is quite common, the latest achievement of Cavan's Paul Brady is certainly a bit out of the ordinary.
Last Sunday, he was Man of the Match when his club Mullahoran Dreadnoughts, to give them their full title, won the Cavan Senior Football Championship after a replay with Kingscourt.
Brady then headed for Citywest in Dublin where the World Handball Championships are currently taking place.
It is often assumed here that handball is mainly an Irish sport, but it is played in various versions in about 40 different countries.
It is particularly strong in America and Brady has won several world senior titles in the land of opportunity, where there are serious financial returns for top players.
Brady, who is favourite to triumph again this week, has a strong sporting pedigree, as he comes from one of Cavan's most famous football families, with his late uncle, Phil 'The Gunner' Brady, having been a legendary figure in Cavan's All-Ireland victories in the '40s and '50s.
So, it wasn't off the grass he licked it.
Testing times for minors
We have all heard stories of how senior inter-county managers can have a disruptive influence on fixtures in some counties, with club championship games often being postponed at short notice at their request. It is one of the biggest and most regular complaints from a lot of club players.
But it seems the reverse can be true also, in cases where club managers try to influence players against joining county panels, and, instead, concentrate on their club activity.
Obviously, this is a very serious matter, particularly in weaker counties, as it would undermine any chance of progress if some of the best club players did not get involved with the county team.
There are also confirmed reports in the past few years of inter-county minor managers putting enormous pressure on young players who are preparing for their all-important Leaving Cert examinations -- and even threatening them with demotion from the county panel if they give preference to their studies over training.
This is a truly horrendous situation and, if it were to become the norm, would add grossly unfair heat on what is already a high stressful situation for these young men.