Tuesday 6 December 2016

Revolting players have mastered the blame game

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 25/04/2010 | 05:00

Brendan Hackett's dignified resignation from the post of Westmeath manager proves he's a much bigger man than the players who schemed to get rid of him.

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It also once more begs the question of what exactly is at the root of GAA player revolts. Hackett, after all, had only been in the job a few months and did well to steer Westmeath's U21s to the provincial decider. And while the county was relegated from Division 2, they did run both Meath and Kildare to a point.

It's debatable whether anyone could have done more with such a distinctly mediocre set of players.

At the time of the Cork hurlers dispute, the most popular reading of the situation was that the players were perfectionists who were unwilling to accept anything less than the highest standards. There might have been some truth in this but it also chimed in with our national self-image in the Tiger years when everyone thought they were a 'winner,' who was 'pushing the envelope,' 'thinking outside the box' and 'going that extra mile'.

Back then, Seanie FitzPatrick told adoring audiences how big his balls were and anyone who'd bought a field and stuck a few houses in it acted like he was auditioning for the part of Gordon Gecko in the remake of Wall Street.

Now that Michael Douglas has got that part and it turns out that the wonder economy was built on sand, we'll have to find a new way to look at player revolts. Because, for one thing, a passion for excellence has seemed conspicuous by its absence if you examine how the players involved in the current disputes have actually performed on the field in recent times.

If the Westmeath and Limerick players are analogous to anything in the wider society, it's probably to the culture of complaint which scars our airwaves and the columns of our newspapers. You know the kind of thing, I went to Barbra Streisand and got my feet wet, it's just not fair, I went to Whitney Houston and she was crap, feel my pain, I had to walk to the bus in the dark after Oxegen, give me a medal. These days self-pity rules and everything is someone else's fault.

That's why the Limerick hurlers, who object to the manager dropping players with a history of under-performing, and the Westmeath footballers, who made Brendan Hackett the scapegoat for their own lack of talent, are very much in the contemporary Irish grain. Their struggle belongs not in the sports pages but on Liveline.

"Hello, this is Joe Duffy here, there's a woman from Clontarf, and a hurler from Limerick, and a footballer from Westmeath."

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