Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 26 September 2016

Action required on this real issue

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 19/07/2015 | 17:00

The whole ‘nothing to see here, move along now’ attitude adopted by Dublin manager Jim Gavin has made the GAA look like the rogue state of Irish sport.
The whole ‘nothing to see here, move along now’ attitude adopted by Dublin manager Jim Gavin has made the GAA look like the rogue state of Irish sport.

The GAA's failure to take meaningful action over the assault on Dublin's Davey Byrne by an Armagh player is making a laughing stock out of the Association's disciplinary system.

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What other sporting organisation in this country would allow an incident which resulted in a player spending two days in hospital with a head injury to be passed over on the basis that the teams involved had worked it out between themselves? The whole 'nothing to see here, move along now' attitude adopted by Dublin manager Jim Gavin has made the GAA look like the rogue state of Irish sport.

Croke Park may argue they are currently investigating the incident, but I think we're entitled to have doubts about this probe. In order to allay these concerns, the investigation must produce concrete results in a timely fashion rather than putting things on the back burner until the heat has died down.

It was intriguing last week to see Joe Kernan enter the fray and imply that the GAA should look at a video of the entire game rather than focus on the injury sustained by Byrne. Said the former Armagh manager, acting in his official capacity as father of a panellist, "Both counties wanted to put that to bed and sometimes that's the best thing. Whereas if it comes out into the open you don't know what's going to happen. It could be tricky for Dublin this year if players are seen to be fighting in a video."

What Kernan seems to be suggesting here is that if Armagh are going to be punished over this one, they might take a couple of Dublin players down with them. Which might explain the reaction of Gavin and the Dublin County Board to the injury to Byrne. And why any GAA investigation is likely to produce a big round zero.

It's not long since Dublin supporters were getting in a huff about Darragh ó Sé's suggestion that there might be some profit in trying to provoke Diarmuid Connolly on account of his suspect temperament. In fact there seemed to be more outrage among pundits about an incident which hadn't happened than about a real injury suffered by a Dublin player.

Gavin's slippery response to some forthright questioning by Newstalk's Colm Parkinson on the issue cemented the impression that Dublin feel entitled to manipulate the disciplinary system according to their own needs. And that Davey Byrne is having to take one for the team. The word 'omerta' springs to mind but it's worth remembering that this philosophy is usually associated with the world of crime rather than the world of sport.

GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail has been sounding off at tedious length lately about the depredations of match analysts and the damage he thinks they do to Gaelic games. But he might bear in mind the old adage about the difference between words and sticks and stones. Harsh words from journalists and former players don't put people in hospital. The president has been wasting a lot of hot air on an essentially trivial issue.

The decision by Dublin and Armagh to set up their own private disciplinary process is, on the other hand, a serious matter. But of course it's a lot easier to whinge about the media than take on the GAA's most powerful county.

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