Culture change needed to put GAA's house back in order
As an association, the GAA has never found rules and regulations easy to administer. Despite the best intentions, whether over health and safety, image or match presentation, adherence to what protocols are prescribed has always been generally poor.
You only have to recount the battle to bring an end to post-final pitch invasions in Croke Park to support that argument or the lukewarm efforts in some quarters to embrace a pre-match ceremonial handshake between all players and officials to generate 'respect.' Instruction isn't taken kindly.
Thumbing through the sports pages of yesterday's newspapers, there was a common theme to many of the photographs printed: Confrontation.
In Thurles, James McGrath is surrounded by a number of the Clare back-room team as he makes his way off the field at half-time.
In Clones, there was player snarling at player in one post-match snapshot and Tyrone selector Gavin Devlin remonstrating forcefully with referee Eddie Kinsella over the amount of additional time. Other photographs show Kieran Hughes' penalty miss with, bizarrely, Tyrone's Conor Clarke waving his hands furiously behind the goal. Unless he felt the umpire needed advice on calling a wide (the penalty struck a post), it was a clear attempt by Clarke to distract.
Now, on the terrace behind the same goal, it could have been full of Tyrone supporters doing exactly the same thing. But when it's an injured opponent acting as 'ball boy' in such isolation, then it becomes a bigger issue. Clarke broke no rule, just as the Armagh players who lined up behind the Cavan flag the previous week or the Cavan players who tried to dislodge them, until hands were raised, didn't either.
But because of both incidents the relevant authorities have had to ensure stricter protocols are in place for parades and the deployment of ball boys. Small things taken for granted for so long become bigger things as a consequence.
The list of 'dos and don'ts' grows longer out of necessity. It's accepted the games are predicated on passion as much as skill. Maybe those involved at the coalface feel that for their huge investment of time, they should not be bound by red tape or formality.
If a ref has done wrong by you then he deserves to be publicly berated by you, right? But in trying to gain that little edge, to steal that extra inch, they are too often willing to compromise their general behaviour at the expense of the game's broader image. Surely it's a culture that has to change.