To disciplinary matters first, and the last thing the GAA needed was the controversy witnessed in Croke Park on Sunday.
Coming so quickly after ‘Claregate’, the Galway versus Armagh game has thrown out a headache that I would not like to be sorting out and, in this case, I have sympathy for the rule makers who have a tough couple of weeks ahead.
Everybody will immediately look at the referee, and the need for two tunnels etc., but we must be honest and say that some of the people involved in the brawl are the ones that really need to examine their own actions.
When pushing and shoving becomes a little more, the referee becomes a small figure and is powerless to stop the domino effect of more bodies entering the arena.
There is an unwritten rule between players that you support your team-mate, and all that is needed is one foolish action to inspire mayhem. A few years back, before a Galway versus Offaly championship match in Portlaoise, I ventured down to the dressing-room area and was standing on the corridor when a huge roar came from the Galway dressing-room before the door burst open.
As the players hit the concrete, an official pulled me to the wall out of the way of these gigantic athletes who were so focused that, had I been caught in the stampede, I do not think they would have even found my body to bury.
My point is that when players turn their anger on each other, it is no easy task to separate them. Back through the years I have seen and been in some dangerous situations and, luckily, they are becoming more infrequent.
We need to do our utmost to stamp them out completely, and for me the responsibility lies more with the lawbreakers than the lawmakers.
Way back in my own time I found myself involved in some hairy situations where my own involvement brought more danger to a paper bag than any adversary.
The Wexford versus Dublin game of 1994, and the Buffers Alley versus Oulart 1989 final, were two that stick in the mind.
When you are in the middle, everything just becomes a blur and, being honest, you only learn of many of the elements of what happened when sitting down having a drink later.
So, it is very tough on a referee to make the correct calls on the spot in a flashpoint environment. The big worry is somebody could get severely injured because the point of attack is not always coming from the eyeline. In short, we need to get a handle on this and to do that everybody must take responsibility.
I attended one of the biggest sporting events in Europe, Féile na nGael, on Saturday with the gallant Glynn-Barntown camogie team. Well done to the girls, to Ballynastragh Gaels (in hurling), and all the other Wexford teams on their great representation of the purple and gold in this wonderful festival of hurling and camogie.
The organisation and venue (Abbotstown was spectacular) proved a credit to our association and exhibited everything that was good about the GAA. I wandered into the coffee room during the break and met ‘Fan’ Larkin, Joe Hennessy, Paddy Neary and other James Stephens legends, and, along with Harriers man Brian Walsh, had the most enjoyable half hour of nostalgia.
We re-visited the 1975 club championship game with Buffers Alley and James Stephens (which was the best club game I ever saw), along with the ’81-’82 Leinster final when the Harriers were so unlucky not to prevail in Athy.
We also tackled Phil Wilson’s sending-off in the mid-70s amongst other things and were in unison on the fact that Leinster hurling need never bow to our southern counterparts for excitement, skill or atmosphere.
Time in the Kilkenny legends’ company underlines why they are such wonderful hurling men, and good luck to them in their efforts to represent eastern colours next weekend.
Finally, the local championship will be up and running by the time the paper is out, so good luck to everyone over the next eight or nine weeks in what I hope will be a memorable season.
It is going to be hectic with a condensed schedule and I do hope that injuries, fatigue etc. will not be the predominant topic, but for now I am really looking forward to it.
The Senior hurling looks the most competitive for years. My late mother had a saying that “you are better than no one, but as good as anyone”.
I think more than ever this year, that will be the mindset of most clubs.