Monday 15 October 2018

All Star controversy is much ado about nothing

Damian Stack looks at some of the stories making back page news over the past seven days

Mayo's David Clarke
Mayo's David Clarke

Where were you during the great All Stars controversy of 2017? Which side were you on? Were you on the right side of history? Will you be able to look your grandchildren in the eye if and when called to account for your actions during those most momentous of days?

If you haven't been able to detect the our sarcasm here, let us put your at ease, we haven't lost our mind, not yet at least. It has at times felt over the past couple of days that far too many other people have taken temporary leave of their senses.

Much of that is fed by what we've seen and read on social media and in that you've always got to be careful. Social media acts sometimes as an echo chamber where the most prominent voices can often be those which shout the loudest.

Even so the reaction to this year's All Star football selection seems particularly overheated. Certain decisions have been branded a disgrace or worst. National newspapers carried headlines about snubs to particular players. Various theories abounded (it was the cluchies wot done it!).

Much of the discussion centres around Stephen Cluxton's non-selection for the All Star team. Having been nominated for Footballer of the Year, a lot of people felt there was something more than a little off about the decision.

Agree with that, disagree with that (and we'll have our say in a minute), it's not exactly the end of the world now is it? It's an award. Nice for those who win it, but no more than that.

Fair play to David Clarke for taking the goalkeeper's position, hopefully he'll knock some enjoyment out of it, but had he not won it would he have been sitting at home all winter and into the spring pining after that piece of metalwork?

It's hard to imagine isn't it? It's hardly an All Ireland medal or anywhere near as important. That's the thing that's so tiresome about the annual bout of grousing and moaning which accompanies the All Stars. It's much ado about nothing.

There's the old line - Sayre's law - about why the battles between academics are so vicious... because the stakes are so low. The All Stars is the ultimate low stakes thing to have a row about.

Most - if not all - the people kicking up the greatest fuss about this stand to gain precisely nothing beyond some sort of loyalty to place and affection for individual players.

So Clarke gets the nod and Mayo people rejoice. So Clarke gets the nod and Dublin people's nose is put out of joint that their guy wasn't selected instead. Then the Mayo people take umbrage to Dublin folk's umbrage and off we go to the races.

The decision. The backlash and the backlash to the backlash. A perfectly pointless little circle of outrage and faux-outrage and whatever else you're having yourself. In a way we suppose this column is probably in itself a backlash to the backlash to the backlash (it gets a little confusing after a certain point).

Look it's all fairly harmless stuff, but it's all so petty and maybe even a little bit embarrassing. It's hard to imagine Stephen Cluxton is enjoying being at the centre of all this nonsense. The Coolock man keeps a low profile for a reason.

None of which is to say he wouldn't liked to have won, or to say that he wouldn't have thought he deserved to win, just that it wouldn't seem to be his style to go off in a huff about it. With his five All Ireland medals - four of those achieved as captain - and five All Star awards we think he'll just about get over it.

And for what it's worth we'd be of the view that this year, as last, David Clarke was deserving of the award. He was the stand-out goal-keeper in the game this summer. He pulled off top class save after top class save - still a key component of the gig by the way (not that Cluxton hasn't got that in his locker as well).

Clarke's kick-outs - spot on in the replay against Kerry especially - were up there with Cluxton's too and that's the thing about it. There seems to be this idea that because Cluxton revolutionised the position the All Star is his by right.

Now that's bonkers. If anything Clarke's win this year is the ultimate vindication of Cluxton's career. He's been so good he's forced everybody else to up their game accordingly. It's a bit like how Margaret Thatcher regarded Tony Blair and New Labour as her greatest achievement - she, like Cluxton, shifted the paradigm.

To think and to talk and to thrash all this stuff out is a very fine thing indeed. It's what the All Stars should be all about, it'd just be nice if we could all do so without getting our backs up and fighting like two bald men over a comb.