Monday 22 January 2018

Comment: 'Tunnelgate' is blown out of all proportion - most players know it was nothing

Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley and Mayo's Keith Higgins tussle even before a ball is kicked
Photo: Don MacMonagle
Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley and Mayo's Keith Higgins tussle even before a ball is kicked Photo: Don MacMonagle

Eamonn Carr

In sport, it’s those athletes with a kamikaze will-to-win who are usually the ones to fear most.

The phrase “by any means necessary”, first aired by African-American social activist and revolutionary leader, Malcolm X, is often more than simply a motivational mantra.

For many, it becomes a philosophy of life, as potent as the motto of elite forces around the world, “who dares wins.”

When it became widely known that a hapless radio commentator was in fear for his life when Dublin met their All-Ireland final opponents Mayo in the tunnel before Sunday’s throw-in at Croke Park, most believed that Dublin had, once again, been ambushed by the wild and wily men from the West.

It would make a colourful, and possibly gripping, yarn, if it was true.

While there was, what Gaelic games commentators have long been describing, as “a bit of a schemozzle” before the teams ran on to the pitch, the facts disprove the notion that Mayo executed a cunning plan to upstage and upset the Boys in Blue.

Thinking to allow the spectators and supporters of both teams an opportunity to extend an individual welcome for their representatives to the hallowed turf, the GAA’s official event itinerary, Clár an Lae, had planned for Dublin and Mayo to run out separately.

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo runs out onto the pitch ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The Dublin players were scheduled to come on to the pitch at 14.56, 16 minutes after the Down 1991 Jubilee team had been introduced to the crowd. That would have allowed 14 minutes before the coin toss.

The Mayo contingent was set to make its entrance two minutes after Dublin, at 14.58.

Conspiracy theorists may query why Dublin were late coming out of their dressing room. There’s probably an innocent explanation.

But, as things panned out, Mayo were, understandably, anxious to get on to the pitch to run through their warm-up routines and familiarise themselves with the conditions on the big day, their eighth All-

Ireland final attempt to bury the hoodoo that’s allegedly thwarted their sporting ambitions since 1951.

As a result of Dublin’s inadvertent delay, which appeared to have been longer than just two minutes, both teams were funnelled through the tunnel at roughly the same time.

With memories of the infamous incident 10 years ago, when Mayo ran to the Hill 16 end to perform their pre-match drills ahead of Dublin, there was always a chance of fireworks, but more likely a few squibs, if the teams were brought out together.

In such circumstances, with players psyched up for the most important match of the year, a bit of pushing and shoving is to be expected. Most players know it’s nothing to be alarmed about.

Everyone’s prepared for much more robust and challenging exchanges when play commences.

And, as anticipated, in this clash between great and formidable rivals, that’s exactly what we got.

After the match, Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, anxious to dismiss the notion that his team had lain in wait to rough up Dublin, insisted, “We went out a minute after we were supposed to go out. It was coincidental. There’s no story behind it.

“These things just happen. You can knock that story on the head.”


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