Wednesday 18 October 2017

'It was like watching counsel for the prosecution' - Joe Brolly criticises Pat Spillane as Diarmuid Connolly row re-erupts

Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane
Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The Diarmuid Connolly suspension saga rumbles on and Dublin boss Jim Gavin threw fuel on the fire yesterday after refusing to do one-on-one broadcast interviews with RTÉ or Sky Sports over their coverage of the incident.

Gavin hit out at the 'bile' that was dished out by the media in the aftermath of Connolly's push on linesman Ciarán Branagan in the press auditorium at Croke Park.

He said: "First of all we can't condone any player interfering with match officials whether it's in the rulebook or not.

"Diarmuid accepts he made a mistake and straight up he accepted the suspension. For my part, what concerned me was the way his good name was attacked before we even saw the referee's report.

"Freedom of expression is one of the rights in the Republic but it's not absolute. Each individual has his own right and I believe that his good name was affected by that."

The Dublin manager was critical of Pat Spillane and Colm O'Rourke's views on the incident on the Sunday Game, views shared before the CCCC had proposed a 12-week ban for his player.

"We had the national broadcaster in their post-match review - both Pat Spillane and Colm O'Rourke, but particularly Pat - read out a pre-determined statement, which was disappointing," he added.

"Particularly because both of them are teachers you'd hope they'd understand that people do make mistakes and that due process should be allowed before we become judge, jury and executioner in one particular incident.

"We saw on Sky Sports the rulebook being read out against them.

"It was my decision to pursue with the CHC and get their opinion on it.

"We received advice from senior counsel that if this went to arbitration the case wouldn't hold but Diarmuid didn't want that to happen. He just wanted to move on in the best interests of the team. That's what he decided to do.

"Within 24 hours and before the referee's report was signed off there was not a media campaign, but it got a lot of traction in the media and I still think his good name - and more importantly the right that he has as an individual in the Republic - was certainly attacked.

"Diarmuid has put his hand up and said it was a mistake and he's prepared to accept his suspension.

"I have a duty of care for the player and I firmly believe there was an attack on his good name.

"Freedom of expression and opinion is an important part of our constitution in the Republic but it's not absolute. You can't attack somebody's good name unwarranted and I believe it was on this instance.

"The bile and the malevolent attitude that certain broadcasters went after him with… an incident happened in the game and we need to let the referee's report be issued and then we can reflect on it. I don't condone what happened and neither does he. But people really went after him, and that is disappointing from the Gaelic Athletic Association."

Here is what Pat Spillane said on the Sunday Game after the Carlow game: "This is a very obvious thing. Diarmuid was infuriated at a sideline decision, not giving the ball back.

"The pictures tell it all. A picture tells a thousand words; clearly going to Ciaran Brannigan, the linesman, clearly putting his hand on the sideline man, clearly pushing the linesman, which he’s not entitled to do, clearly with his finger pointed, threatening the linesman.

"You prod a bear, you get a reaction. You prod Diarmuid Connolly, you antagonise Diarmuid Connolly, and you always get a reaction.

"He put his hands on the linesman, he pushed the linesman back, and a finger pointed in somebody’s face sounds to me like threatening. Bottom line, its Rule 5 - minor physical interference. It carries a penalty of 12 weeks."

Speaking on the Sunday Game last night, Dessie Dolan said he believed Spillane's comments were 'pointed' but Joe Brolly went further.

"He[Spillane] is a big boy, and he knows what he said. Of course Diarmuid shouldn't have touched the official, but at that stage, the officials had not taken any action in relation to it, and it was in the context of Connolly being held in the way that he was," he said.

"You have to say, it was like watching counsel for the prosecution. Pat had everything on but his Kerry blazer and his Kerry tie. I thought to myself after, the CCCC are going to act here."

Des Cahill asked Brolly if he was blaming Spillane for the suspension, he responded: "At that stage, you were expecting that the Diubs could think, 'that's the end of the matter'. But once it had been jumped on - and it looked to me that Pat was reading out a script - and as soon as I watched it, I thought, they will have to go for him now."

Cahill pointed out that most pundits use notes while appearing on television and asked if it was unfair to blame Pat for pointing out that Connolly had put his hand on an official.

"He did put his hand on the official. But when you play it back, and slow it down, and talk of his past record. Let me put it to you this way. Imagine if that had been Colm Cooper. Your first reaction would have been the same: 'Are the officials not going to protect him? There are three men pushing, shunting him at the sideline. We'd be saying, 'do players like this not deserve protection?," he added.

"But because it is Diarmuid Connolly, and I think Pat bought into it, but there's a feeling that it is open season on Diarmuid. I did think it was over the top, I have to say. He is entitled to his opinion, but I strongly disagreed with it."

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