Thursday 24 October 2019

Frank Roche: 'Time for a ‘lord maor’ to monitor the ‘maors’ in a world gone mad'

Dublin selector Greg Kennedy and Kilkenny manager Brian Cody following the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Kilkenny and Dublin at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dublin selector Greg Kennedy and Kilkenny manager Brian Cody following the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Kilkenny and Dublin at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Frank Roche

Any of you who’ve played competitive sport at some level will be familiar with the term “having a mare”.

Only non-sporting pedants would ascribe a literal definition to the above – as in, giving birth to a fully-grown horse of the female persuasion.

Whereas you and me know this equates to “having a nightmare”.

This can be a humiliating experience, the only consolation being that it’s rarely as painful as the equine agony alluded to above.

Having a mare can take many different forms: ‘shinning’ a spectacular own goal past your bemused goalkeeper as he went to gather a routine cross; ‘shanking’ a 20m free to win the county final; dropping the ball as you swan dive, unchallenged, across the try line; missing a 12-inch putt to win captain’s prize at Open Week.

Or it could be a more general malaise extending over three sets, 18 holes, 70-80-90 minutes, where everything you touch turns to fool’s gold. More minus than Midas touch.

Last weekend brought a surreal twist on this concept. No longer is it sufficient to be having a mare; you need a more proactive approach at inter-county level. In short, you need to be “doing a Maor”.

You cannot allow bad fortune to dictate your nightmarish fate; you must become an active participant in the drama and prevent it from happening.

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Time to call the ‘Maor Foirne’.

It has been a bad week for this suddenly maligned and possibly even endangered species. Many armchair hurling fans, who only tune in come championship, weren’t even aware of Greg Kennedy’s existence until his ill-fated intervention in Nowlan Park.

By Saturday night, however, the Dublin selector and ‘maor foirne’ (aka runner) was talk of the town and trending on Twitter.

All because he did what any corner-back would do: he caught a ball above his head to stop a corner-forward’s goalbound march.

Except, of course, that Greg hasn’t been Galway corner-back for years and he shouldn’t have been ‘marking’ Kilkenny’s No 13.

Was it his defender’s DNA kicking in? Perhaps.

Was it was a reflex action, as Mattie Kenny suggested when describing his catch of the day as a non-deliberate “reaction” to the sliotar coming over his head? Not so sure about that ... the replay makes it clear that Kennedy had spotted the danger signals and moved accordingly.

The wrong move at the wrong time for Dublin? It certainly didn’t help, inflaming Mister Cody and the Kilkenny masses for those febrile closing minutes of a first half mostly dominated by the visitors.

Looking beyond the immediate disciplinary ramifications, does it spell the end of the maor foirne? As the rule is currently applied/flouted, it really should act as a watershed.

Managers can advocate all they want for having a backroom team member who is sufficiently youthful and spry and still fancies himself to do a job; someone who can impart those vital on-field messages - during breaks of play only, allegedly - that otherwise wouldn’t be heard.

But while the regulations about runners are very black-and-white on paper, we all know that everything turns to grey in the GAA.

As Darragh Ó Sé wrote in the Irish Times: “It’s one of those classic GAA issues. Everybody knows there are rules around what a maor foirne can and can’t do but everybody takes them more as a sort of a suggestion than a set of laws.”

The only plausible solution, apart from getting rid altogether? The elevation of an independent ‘lord maor’ to monitor the maors!

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