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GAA can't get its teeth into biting issue (allegedly)

HERE'S something we all agree on: biting is among the most repugnant acts that can be perpetrated on a GAA pitch, or any sports field for that matter.

Here's something else we can mostly agree on: unless you happen to be Luis Suarez, and prone to the odd mid-match snack in full view of the cameras, biting is among the most difficult of all allegations to substantiate.

There are a couple of reasons: (a) on-the-neck nibbles tend to be off-the-ball and consequently off-camera; and (b) it's such an unpardonable offence that whoever commits one such moment of madness will doubtless be terrified of admitting guilt, given the onslaught of negative attention it will spawn.

When it comes to the GAA, there's another possible explanation: the tendency among victims, on mature reflection, to avoid giving evidence.

We're not sure if this stems from a desire to evade the media glare or avoid being tarred as a 'snitch'; whether it's partly because of pressure from within your own dressing-room or a more general sense that Omerta must be upheld.

What has all this got to do with a certain alleged event in Parnell Park last Sunday? Well, perhaps nothing at all, because Curve Ball has absolutely no evidence that would either corroborate or disprove the accusation that a DCU player was bitten during their O'Byrne Cup clash with Dublin.

 

IGNORANCE

Moreover, this column has the perfect alibi when pleading ignorance – we weren't even in the same country.

Then again, we'll safely venture that every journalist covering the match didn't see what happened (or didn't happen) either. Therein lies the conundrum for every GAA disciplinary committee when it seeks to investigate allegations of biting.

Even if the injury were to be photographed, that won't stop rows over when does a bruise become a laceration? Moreover, photos don't constitute proof that Player X was bitten by Player Y. And unless Player X turns up at a hearing to assert that, yes indeed, he was bitten by Player Y... well, the case crumbles.

None of us can be sure what happened in Ballybofey last April, but we all know the aftermath: the allegation that Donegal's Paddy McBrearty was bitten, requiring a hospital visit for injections; the subsequent investigation; the CCCC proposal that a Dublin player be suspended and the resultant CHC hearing, which resulted in this player being cleared. The infraction, as alleged, was deemed "not proven" – crucially, McBrearty did not turn up to give evidence.

 

CONTROVERSY

Now, for the second time in nine months, the Dublin footballers find themselves caught up in another alleged biting controversy. The circumstances aren't quite so high-profile but, then again, the Dubs will always be box-office.

We don't know what happened last Sunday but, even though the Leinster Council is duty-bound to investigate and last night set up a sub-committee to do so, we'll be gobsmacked if a Dublin player ends up being suspended. Are their intertwined rivals from DCU, of all teams, willing to push this all the way?

Here's a thought, though. Jim Gavin is ultra-meticulous when it comes to managing his Dublin team. If something amiss took place last Sunday, surely he'd want to know the precise circumstances?

If Dublin are innocent, they should shout it from the rooftops. But if, per chance, one of their players behaved in a manner that was ill-becoming of anyone privileged to wear the famed Sky Blue jersey, what is to stop Gavin drawing a line in the sand and dropping that player from his squad?

It can be done privately, without fanfare or announcement.

But a message will have been transmitted, loud and clear, by a manager who has always championed the cause of sportsmanship, of winning the right way. Better stop it there; we're entering the dangerous realms of speculation.


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