Thursday 29 September 2016

Colm O'Rourke: Tyrone need to be like Caesar's wife - Above suspicion and not growling at the world

Published 06/12/2015 | 16:56

Mickey Harte
Mickey Harte

A Cavan man wrote to me recently to say I was being far too kind to NAMA and it was time I was a bit tougher. And I thought I had being doing that.

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He listed off various properties that should have been available to local clubs and schools which were all sold off to foreign hedge funds. Worse still, it appears that nobody at political level is willing to raise such matters of national importance. Nobody to challenge ministers when they either claim their hands are tied, or worse still when the Minister for Finance or NAMA officials say they are doing a great job. Has your local club benefited? No, and they won't be benefiting either. Why are the GAA at central level not shouting from the rooftops. They are culpable too by their silence.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain some great green fields for clubs and there is nobody saying anything. Better to let the hedge funds rape the country, the only certainty being that Paddy will get no chance to buy. What we have now is a coalition of the cowardly with the GAA and other sporting bodies guilty by association of allowing our land to be given away.

At various times in our history there were military campaigns by the English which resulted in generals and other ranks being given vast tracts of land to quell the Irish. We were always taught in school how dreadful this was. Now the Government are doing exactly the same and various opposition parties who like to play the Republican card when it suits stand by with their heads bowed in silent acquiescence. Next year this shameful lot will try to corner some gain from the men of 100 years ago. Would Thomas Clarke have sold off and sold out? Not a chance.

Anyway, over the last year, there have been issues - and that's putting it mildly - about Tyrone's minor, under 21 and senior teams. I was reading recently that a report by the Ulster Council arising from the Ulster minor championship match between Tyrone and Donegal had been sent to both counties and the matter was closed. It did not take long for some social media outlets to put their own spin on this confidential agreement - it would have been better all round to publish the findings. Wherever the blame lay, it lay.

In 1824, Joseph Stockdale tried to blackmail the Duke of Wellington by telling him that various anecdotes written by Harriet Wilson in her memoirs would be very damaging to the Duke who was a national hero after Waterloo and also a cabinet minister, Field Marshal, husband and father.

Ms Wilson, let's say, was well known to Wellington. Anyway the Duke's famous response was 'publish and be damned'. He went on to become prime minister. The Ulster Council should have done the same. The truth sets you free. Now, though, a big question mark hangs over this judgement and both sides can claim they were right.

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During the summer Tyrone were very much in the spotlight. We had controversies around feigning injury, sledging, diving and attempting to get players sent off. The reaction at the time within Tyrone was that it was all part of some southern conspiracy. It seems the southern press and the free press are not the same thing. Management of the various Tyrone teams protested loudly and some of their supporters even more loudly - and in my ear too. So was any of it true?

Were Donegal, Tipperary and Monaghan, among others, wrong? Obviously the CCCC seemed to think there was a case to answer when they proposed a suspension for a Tyrone player, even if it was a rather clumsy attempt to highlight a problem which was always doomed to failure. The CCCC would have been better off to call in all the people involved in these events and remind them of their responsibilities. If it was happening with a club in Tyrone then the county board would act swiftly.

Nobody ever said that the managements of the minor, under 21 or senior teams had promoted such conduct but if a player thought that involvement in such unwelcome activities would end their county career then the problem would immediately disappear.

So next year will be very interesting for Tyrone. Some of my (few) remaining Tyrone friends tell me that there are a lot of Tyrone GAA people at the top who are unhappy with the county's reputation and would like to see a change of emphasis and direction. One which would not hurt their chances either but actually promote them in all GAA activity. It would also benefit sponsors, bring more positive publicity to the county and a more positive attitude to Tyrone teams.

Plenty of counties in the past have had a bunker mentality when they thought they were wronged. The Meath team used it to good effect in the 1980s but there is a big difference in having a reputation for over-robust play and some of what Tyrone were at.

I'm sure this will promote more accusations of agendas, and more bile directed at the dreaded southern press. Yet any objective analysis will reflect that Tyrone need to be like Caesar's wife for a while. That is, above suspicion and not growling at the world.

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