Thursday 23 January 2020

Comment - Jim Gavin's outburst a distraction a team chasing a hat-trick doesn't need

Was Jim Gavin right to call out RTÉ? - No

Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

What Jim Gavin did on Sunday is nothing new in the world of sport. Across codes, managers protect their players in almost every circumstance. And regardless of the rights and wrongs of Diarmuid Connolly's case, the Dublin boss was never going to do anything other than back one of his star men to the hilt.

That's just the way of things. In elite level sport, the stakes are high. Little things become big things. In this case, RTE and Sky's analysis of Connolly's encounter with Ciaran Branagan has blown up into something much bigger.

In refusing to facilitate one-on-one interviews for TV - the norm for post-match media events - Gavin was making a point.

Like every other manager in the country, his co-operation with the media around game time is voluntary. He isn't obliged to grant interviews. This was a shot across the bows.

It was a surprising move for Gavin. For a hugely successful manager of the GAA's marquee team, his media engagements are remarkably unremarkable.

Gavin is polite and courteous, but his comments are usually well between the lines. Generally, less is more.

On Sunday he took a shot at the broadcasters for their coverage of the Connolly incident. He was never going to be happy with one of his players getting a 12-week ban; that he was going to rail against that is unsurprising. However, his suggestion that the coverage influenced the Central Competitions Control Committee's (CCCC) decision to propose a suspension is more worrying.

"Absolutely, there's no doubt about that (the coverage influenced the CCCC's decision to pursue the incident)," Gavin said.

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"Within 24 hours and before the referees report was signed off there was not a media campaign, but it got a lot of traction in the media and I still think his good name… more importantly the right that he has as an individual in the Republic... I think his good name was certainly attacked, that's for sure."

Gavin clearly feels the CCCC's hand was forced. However, that he seems to have so little faith in the GAA to carry out their disciplinary duties without influence from TV is a concern.

It would be a damning indictment of the GAA if their most significant disciplinary authority was influenced by the whims of pundits and columnists.

The head of the CCCC, George Cartwright, dismissed the notion yesterday.

"Well I would refute that totally. The Sunday Game has no bearing or no influence on the GAA disciplinary system," he countered.

"The CCCC review all games on a Monday that have been played on the Sunday or the Saturday and take action if need be, so I would refute that totally."

This isn't the first time Gavin has cried foul. He has made it clear in the past that he feels the establishment haven't always been fair to his side.

After the 2013 All-Ireland final he called out Joe McQuillan on his refereeing, saying: "Not only were we playing Mayo, but we were playing the referee as well."

Earlier this year he questioned the logic of appointing Paddy Neilan to the Division 1 final. Neilan hadn't taken charge of a top flight game all spring, but was handed the heavyweight clash with Kerry, where he waved away a late Dublin penalty shout.

"(We) should probably have got that penalty call that wasn't given, and (that) probably a reflection maybe of a very good but inexperienced referee being in that cauldron and not giving it," said Gavin.

But someone has to handle discipline. In the case of the GAA, the CCCC are the first step for discipline related issues. There has to be some acceptance of their ability to do the job as fairly as possible.

If Dublin continue their protest it will hurt RTE, who now find themselves at loggerheads with two of the leading football teams in the country, as Tyrone's refusal to co-operate is ongoing.

Whether Dublin need this distraction is debatable. Other than perhaps galvanising his squad with an 'us against the world' attitude, it's hard to see what Gavin and Dublin will gain from a partial withdrawal from media activities.

Maybe generating that siege mentality is the primary goal here.

Read the counter-argument here: Comment - Staying silent would have been a dereliction of Jim Gavin's managerial duty

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