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It's just a different brawl game, Eoin

fOCUSED: Darragh MaloneyTHE thing I love about GAA is that no matter how big the melee, and no matter how many players are involved in a scrap, there is often a sense that it is just business as usual and, if anything, it only adds to the craic.

The latest slugfest took place last weekend during an ill-tempered O'Byrne Cup quarter-final between Kildare and Laois, where a total of seven players were sent off. Five of those red cards were issued after a mass brawl.

On Monday, the brilliant Off the Ball on Newstalk 106 addressed the issue with former GAA man Mick Lawlor, who failed to see much wrongdoing. "I've seen worse rows; it was only pulling and shoving. What's all the hullabaloo?" he said unsympathetically to the charges of foul play.

In fact, he went on to describe the mass brawl as little more than handbags and put it to presenter Eoin McDevitt, that "common sense should come into this".

I'm not sure what common sense that would be, but he seemed to be suggesting that the whole affair should be swept under the carpet. After all, he did say it is a man's game.

The presenter struggled with this interpretation of events and put it to Lawlor that it doesn't take much to break someone's jaw. Again his guest was unconvinced. There's none of those fellas that couldn't get up and go to work the next day, he said.

What was telling about it was the sense of injustice and the lack of accountability. Such thinking is an extension of the notion we seem to have in this country that rules are something that don't really apply -- especially to ourselves. And let's face it, no self-respecting GAA match would be complete without a bit of mayhem. Sure didn't angry fans once lock the referee in the boot of his car after a local parish tie?

The texters adopted a morally righteous stance on the issue, accusing Lawlor of talking through his behind, but another elucidated a much more likely truth when he said: "I've seen worse at 16 level." And I bet he has.

Strangely enough, the issue of the massive fight was barely even mentioned on Sport at 7 with Darragh Maloney on the same night. If such a pitch battle occurred in any other sport, it would be headline news for a week.

Maybe because RTE is the national broadcaster, and GAA is the national game, there are sensitivities that cannot be inflamed. Or maybe the brawl culture in GAA is so manifest that it's hardly worth mentioning . . . Or could it be because rugby in Ireland is the new GAA and they had to devote time to that as well?

Instead, Sport at 7 focused on another type of fight, specifically, the Paraguayan centre forward Salvador Cabanas who was shot in the head in Mexico City.

Nowadays, all stations seem to require in-depth interview-led sports shows. And that extends to the community station Dublin City FM 103.2, whose Inside Sport curiously specialises in minority sports. Not only was there no GAA feature but, on their weekly Tuesday evening slot, they had an interview with Aoife Hoey of the Irish women's bobsleigh team. There was a bluntness about the line of questioning that you could only get away with on community radio, which is part of its inherent charm . . .

"Do your opponents take Ireland seriously?" wondered the presenter.

It was another way of asking "are Ireland s**te?"

Their sign-off was pure poetry as they apologised for the omission of a mooted feature: "Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to play the hockey interview, but it was very good . . ."

I'm sure it was.

Off the Ball, Newstalk 106: 7pm weekdays Sport at 7, RTE Radio 1: 7.02pm weekdays Inside Sport, Dublin City FM: 7pm Tuesdays


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