Friday 15 December 2017

Joe Brolly: Diarmuid Connolly was compared to a violent animal on national television, how could Jim not be enraged?

Diarmuid Connolly. Photo: Sportsfile
Diarmuid Connolly. Photo: Sportsfile

Joe Brolly

Diarmuid Connolly is not a bear. He is a natural footballer and hurler who - like Messi or Maradona - finds magic in what he does.

The St Vincent's ones will tell you he's never out of their club pitches, kicking ball and hurling.

Some years ago, on the evening before an All-Ireland football final he was playing in with the Dubs, I played with a Derry old boys selection against a Dublin team captained by Brian Mullins. The match was at St Vincent's and at one stage I was bowled over by a shoulder charge and ended up on my back with the ball in my hand, near the sideline. I looked up, to see Diarmuid standing looking down at me from the sideline, tapping a sliotar on his hurl.

The real unfairness of his ban is not that he was punished, but that the minimum punishment is a 12-week prohibition on any GAA-related activity. No club or county football or hurling.

If he was a traditional singer or ham actor, he couldn't even participate in Scór.

It is too long, too draconian and does not take into account the time of year or the circumstances of the offence.

A one-match ban would have been ample punishment and in those circumstances, people would have accepted it as fair. As it is, there is simmering discontent.

If anything good is to come from this sorry saga, it should be a review of the rule to (a) define the circumstances in which a touch of an official amounts to minor interference and (b) create a fair punishment, ranging from a one-match ban to two matches, depending on the circumstances. In this way, public confidence would be restored.

Jim Gavin is an honourable and decent man and is right to defend Diarmuid Connolly in the way he has. When the punishment does not fit the crime, it inevitably creates a grievance.

And when a young man is compared to a dumb, violent animal on national television, how could Jim not be enraged?

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