Thursday 19 September 2019

Comment: Why are our top managers throwing their toys out of the pram? Media scrutiny comes with the job

Martin O'Neill, Joe Schmidt and Jim Gavin have had issues with the media recently
Martin O'Neill, Joe Schmidt and Jim Gavin have had issues with the media recently

Cormac Byrne

So Dublin boss Jim Gavin is the latest high profile manager to get into a strop with the media.

One of the phrases bandied about by most sports psychologists these days is 'control the controllables'. It makes perfect sense and it's a legitimate aim for any player or coach.

But in recent months Messrs Gavin, Schmidt and O'Neill have tried to exert a certain level of control over something they shouldn't. The media.

The role of the media isn't just to report on the highs and lows of sport but to analyse and scrutinise the games we love.

Managers can dictate the narrative most of the time but certain events, tactics or decisions can lead to criticism.

When justified disapproval emanates from pundits and journalists then media boycotts seem like an extreme reaction.

The latest squabble between the Dublin management and RTÉ begs a lot of questions.

What access to footage were Dublin afforded by RTÉ? Was this service available to every county? Why can't a well-resourced set-up like Dublin's obtain their own footage of their games?

Unless RTÉ were giving the All-Ireland champions access to real-time footage during games, and there is no suggestion they were, what's the issue here?

Gavin was interviewed by eir after the game but RTÉ television and radio were told, 'Not today'.

Gavin has previously boycotted RTÉ. After last year's Leinster semi-final demolition of Westmeath, the Dubs boss refused to speak to the national broadcaster over the Sunday Game's coverage of the incident involving Diarmuid Connolly and linesman Ciarán Brannigan in the win over Carlow which saw the St Vincent's star hit with a 12-week ban.

He rounded on Pat Spillane for what he believed to have been a 'pre-determined statement'.

The fact of the matter is that Connolly pushed the official and he was given the minimum suspension available for such an infraction, 12 weeks. It was the minimum sanction.

There are plenty of examples of Connolly reacting when he has been goaded on the field and that has been highlighted across the media. Whether it warranted the boycott is debatable but it happened.

Gavin's RTE snub last Saturday came just hours after rugby writers were informed that for the first time in his tenure, Joe Schmidt would not be holding a briefing with journalists from daily newspapers after the game with Italy. Content which is embargoed until titles hit the shelves on Monday.

He had engaged in the customary briefing after his previous 52 internationals.

No reasons was given for the decision but Schmidt is believed to be unhappy with recent press coverage.

Relations between the press and the IRFU appear to be at an all-time low.

It is unclear what was the catalyst for the Kiwi's decision.

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill's relationship with the media is also at a very low ebb.

In the time between the bitterly disappointing defeat to Denmark in November and the draw for the UEFA Nations League on January, the Derry native had been heavily linked to the Everton job (subsequently handed to Sam Allardyce) and held talks with Stoke City following the axing of Mark Hughes and his only dealings with the press came in the form of a short video interview with FAI TV.

There were very legitimate questions to be answered about the 'understanding' he had with the FAI that he could speak to Premier League clubs, why did he verbally agree to a new deal in October and court the attention of the Potters before signing it and did he feel that he had let the Irish fans down.

Most expected some sweet talk from O'Neill but what we got was a snarling interview with RTÉ's Tony O'Donoghue where he accused the soccer correspondent of a 'verbal attack' in the aftermath of the 5-1 defeat to the Danes.

The manager of our national team should be above this kind of behaviour.

There is no media vendetta against Jim Gavin, Joe Schmidt or Martin O'Neill.

Journalists delve so they can quench the public's thirst for knowledge and information on their heroes and those charged with getting the best from them.

Media scrutiny goes hand-in-hand with top level sport.

The situation with Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is different.

His Sunday Game boycott is based on the leaking of details of a letter he sent to RTÉ in 2011 and an insensitive radio sketch on RTÉ Radio ran on Harte which finished with a short extract from the song Pretty Little Girl from Omagh.

The Tyrone management subsequently released a statement accusing the broadcaster of insulting the memory of his murdered daughter, Michaela.

RTÉ have tried to reach out to Tyrone and Harte to find a solution but in these circumstances, Harte has the right to have the final say.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport