Wednesday 22 January 2020

Comment - Jim Gavin's overreaction was a studs-up challenge on Pat Spillane

Jim Gavin was not impressed by Pat Spillane's remarks on Diarmuid Connolly's push on linesman Ciarán Branagan
Jim Gavin was not impressed by Pat Spillane's remarks on Diarmuid Connolly's push on linesman Ciarán Branagan

Cormac Byrne

Jim Gavin's decision to reopen the debate surrounding Diarmuid Connolly's 12-week ban took many by surprise, but his decision to refer to the coverage of the incident as 'bile' was as big an overreaction as the one that prompted his star player to push linesman Ciarán Branagan.

In an era of media blackouts and banal, colourless interviews in the GAA, Gavin was the last person you'd expect to see losing it. But he did.

Gavin said: "An incident happened in the game and we need to let the referee's report be issued and then we can reflect on it. I don't condone what happened and neither does he. But people really went after him, and that is disappointing from the Gaelic Athletic Association."

If we follow this logic, then we should begin broadcasts at the throw-in and end them at the final whistle. The age of GAA punditry and analysis is over if we can't talk about defining incidents in the game, including those that have no place in our games.

Pat Spillane may have gone hard on Connolly in his analysis but in suggesting that Pat Spillane was reading out a 'pre-determined statement', the Dublin boss went in with studs up.

Gavin has chosen to defend Connolly's good character by calling into question the character of one of Ireland's most celebrated footballers and respected pundits. For Jim, the best form of defence was attack.

Spillane has always used notes during his appearances on The Sunday Game. I'm sure he considered his comments before he made them. It was nothing out of the ordinary.

Saying that as a teacher, Spillane should have known better was grossly unfair.

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Suggestions of a 'malevolent attitude' on the part of the media are very dangerous.

Here's what Gavin said: "I have a duty of care for the player and I firmly believe there was an attack on his good name."

Here's what Spillane said: "This is a very obvious thing. Diarmuid was infuriated at a sideline decision, not giving the ball back.

"The pictures tell it all. A picture tells a thousand words; clearly going to Ciaran Brannigan, the linesman, clearly putting his hand on the sideline man, clearly pushing the linesman, which he’s not entitled to do, clearly with his finger pointed, threatening the linesman.

"You prod a bear, you get a reaction. You prod Diarmuid Connolly, you antagonise Diarmuid Connolly, and you always get a reaction.

"He put his hands on the linesman, he pushed the linesman back, and a finger pointed in somebody’s face sounds to me like threatening. Bottom line, its Rule 5 - minor physical interference. It carries a penalty of 12 weeks."

Does that amount to an attack on Connolly's character? Not for me. It's an experienced GAA man calling a situation as he sees it.

Pundits must be free to pass judgement on players, managers and events, otherwise they are obsolete. Using the laws of the game and a player's disciplinary record to back up their arguments is perfectly legitimate.

GAA players are already scared stiff to say anything controversial to the media, if pundits begin to feel the same fear, then the GAA and its supporters will lose out and we'll have no characters left in the game at all.

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