Eugene McGee: Galvin more sinned against than sinner
The extent to which punishment fits the crime is always controversial these days and it also applies to justice as dished out by the GAA. The case of Paul Galvin is a good example because there is a strongly held view that the suspension of eight weeks imposed on him recently is more related to his recent history in the Kerry jersey than the actual events which brought about his suspension.
In a league game with Cork last month, Galvin and Cork defender Eoin Cadogan were involved in a tussle ending on the ground. The referee issued both with red cards, which normally earns a month's suspension. But where the complications start is that Galvin's suspension was doubled because he had been suspended within the previous 12 months.
Galvin was a national news item in the media throughout the summer of 2008 in relation to the incident in which he batted away the notebook of referee Paddy Russell. He was eventually suspended for that, but the controversy and memory lingered on.
We move along then to last summer when Galvin got some close attention from a Cork defender and was again sent off -- this time rather dubiously, according to onlookers.
His reputation as a 'bad boy' in the GAA was now complete and opponents were quick to realise that taunting him and niggling him physically off the ball could well pay dividends because, rightly or wrongly, it was felt that special attention would be paid to the Finuge man by everybody in authority.
As a result of the incidents in 2008 and 2009, the image of Galvin as a sportsman was severely damaged in the eyes of some people. As usual, very few bothered to dig any deeper into his background -- preferring instead to believe the player as merely a 'troublemaker'.
Yet, yesterday the same Paul Galvin was rejoicing when the team he has helped to train and manage, St Brendan's, Killarney, won the Munster senior colleges championship and will advance to the All-Ireland semi-final.
In the course of his work as teacher and football coach, Galvin would have taught the students to play the game to the best of their ability and to behave in a sporting manner. He would have devoted countless hours outside his working hours to help out these young men, some of whom will undoubtedly play for Kerry in the future.
Indeed, there was a lovely photograph after the recent semi-final of Paul Galvin shaking hands with Jack O'Connor, who was in charge of the defeated Colaiste na Sceilge, the team that won the All-Ireland colleges title last year.
The point here is that Galvin has been demonised unfairly. Whatever 'crimes' he has committed on the pitch -- real or imaginary -- he has paid a very high price for. That did still not cause him to turn his back on the GAA, as yesterday's activities shows.
So, who are the real 'villains' in GAA circles? Galvin, who plays his football in an open if sometimes foolish manner, or the many cunning, dirty players around Ireland who constantly behave in a despicable manner with mean, dirty tricks and abusive language against opponents, but because they are clever enough to cod referees they get away with it? Most GAA people would have no trouble answering that question -- certainly not the student footballers of St Brendan's, Killarney.