Sunday 21 January 2018

Comment - Staying silent would have been a dereliction of Jim Gavin's managerial duty

Was Jim Gavin right to call out RTÉ? - Yes

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

So much of the focus has been on what Dublin boss Jim Gavin said on Sunday - and the multitude of interpretations of his calmly raging outburst - but has anyone paused to consider the reaction had he decided to stay silent?

A manager's primary duty is to defend his players and it would have been a dereliction of duty had Gavin not done so. It would have betrayed weakness on his part; his players would have been more alarmed at such silence rather than an outburst that, although acutely measured, seemed extraordinary.

However, this was an extraordinary circumstance. Would the greatest of them all, Brian Cody - the irrefutable master of manipulating the siege mentality - have reacted supinely; and do you not think his squad and supporters would have backed him to the hilt?

Or Mickey Harte? Or Davy Fitzgerald, whose recent act of on-field dodgems with Tipp players was saluted by so many in the hurling world as the ultimate symbol of fidelity to the cause?

Sport is littered with examples of great managers - and Gavin's achievements already place him on that list - who have put their players above all else because, quite simply, that single-mindedness is a necessary tool of their trade.

Ger Loughnane at one stage likened the Munster Council to the Gestapo during the unforgettable hurling summer of 1998, when he felt his players were being treated like "criminals".

Unbending loyalty underpinned his every move; much as it may have seemed to critics who perceived his every syllable to be wildly inappropriate.

Some have viewed parallels between Gavin's stance and that of Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho in another code, yet their loyalty often crudely overstepped the mark.

Gavin has crossed no such line and his arguments are rounded in facts.

Though it has already now been entirely forgotten, of course, Gavin repeatedly insisted that Connolly accepted that he had made a mistake and that Dublin did not condone any interference with match officials.

This was the only element where Gavin could offer no defence, but only because they were never allowed one. His, Dublin's and the player's grievance is the absence of any defence, as the case against the player had seemingly already been prosecuted before judgement was set down.

There has still been no adequate explanation as to why the adjudication of the officials on duty in Portlaoise was overturned.

The denial of the CCCC chairman George Cartwright remains as weak as that of his predecessors when denying that TV evidence is not taken into account when constructing disciplinary cases.

Why does it remain the case, then, that once the CCCC refers an incident back to its referees, they feel pressured to revisit their original judgements because the authorities are alive to TV coverage?

Some refs fear they may not get reappointed if they do not budge.

Can referees be entirely happy with a process that sees their judgements overruled on the basis of an elaborate system of trial by television?

The transparency of Connolly's actions were viewed in broad daylight, but the implementation of justice was not; or rather, only a televised, one-sided case for the prosecution was.

Of course, this is not the first time that this has occurred and, while Dublin have their own experience of flawed justice in the past - Colin Moran - there is an endless array of our amateur players who have experienced appallingly unbalanced treatment in this manner, from Paul Galvin to Tiernan McCann.


Too often the GAA has witnessed the sudden lurch from mass hysteria towards public prosecution, ending in private punishment.

It needs to change.

The legal advice received by Dublin - another aspect of Gavin's address ignored by those who remain transfixed by the cult of the personalities involved in this controversy - indicates the gravely fragile sands upon which the GAA authorities are standing.

Of course, nobody will praise Connolly for refusing to pursue a case he looked certain to have won.

The headline target of Gavin's opprobrium may have been television - RTE, specifically, Sunday's host broadcasters, but also Sky Sports - but it is the GAA to whom he is really addressing his deeply held opinion.

That is the kernel of this whole debate and perhaps when the laughable concerns for the rampant egos of TV pundits subsides, the GAA might thank Gavin for shining a light on this murky arena of how the sport metes out justice to amateur players.

Until then, he has every right to criticise the opaque system, as well as the attendant role of all media.

Far from being an ill-judged over-reaction, it would have been utterly appalling had he chosen to remain silent.

Read the counter-argument here: Comment - Jim Gavin's outburst a distraction a team chasing a hat-trick doesn't need

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