Friday 17 November 2017

'I'd have thrown my jersey at Rock' - Dublin's Philly McMahon says cynical play in GAA is here to stay

Philly McMahon celebrates All Ireland win and (inset) Lee Keegan throws GPS at Rock
Philly McMahon celebrates All Ireland win and (inset) Lee Keegan throws GPS at Rock
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Perhaps some of the bitter fallout from the All-Ireland final was inevitable. When two teams build up a rivalry the way Dublin and Mayo have maybe we should have expected some mudslinging.

Philly McMahon is trying his best to let it wash off him.

"If these people meant something to me in life, it would be (insulting). But they don't," he said in response to some of the stick that has come their way.

Some of it is merited and some of it is the product of being consistently top of he food chain. Asked if it was inevitable that a successful team like Dublin would quickly get the back up of neutrals, he pointed to the footage of Dick Clerkin celebrating Lee Keegan's second-half goal.

"It could be," he replied. "I was just watching the Kammy and… the AIB videos there - brilliant. And you see Dick Clerkin behind… I thought he was from Monaghan?!

"So you do get a bit of that. It's inevitable in any sport. Yeah, of course it's going to happen. It's happened for years with other top sports teams.

"With Man United - everybody hates Man United. Things change eventually though, don't they? So whether it's positive or it's negative, you try and pay no heed to it.

"Because essentially what I'm doing is playing the sport I love and putting the jersey on that I love representing."

Philly McMahon with Sibha Bhoja and Conn McCluskey at an event to promote National Fitness Day, which takes place today. Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Philly McMahon with Sibha Bhoja and Conn McCluskey at an event to promote National Fitness Day, which takes place today. Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Much of the rancour from the All-Ireland final came from the cynical acts that pockmarked the final few moments.

Keegan threw his GPS tracker in an attempt to put off Dean Rock for that vital late free. Ciarán Kilkenny picked up a black card for dragging down a Mayo defender as they tried to get the ball out afterwards.

A handful of his team-mates could have went with him. Cormac Costello busied himself by interfering with David Clarke's kicking tees.

They were high-profile incidents but McMahon reckons the game was no more or less cynical that other matches between the sides.

In the last couple of minutes it came into it alright but throughout the game it was end to end, you didn't really have the time to do anything that was cynical, you know?

"No, it didn't feel that way, it definitely didn't feel any more than what it normally is," he said at the launch of National Fitness Day, which takes place today.

McMahon is a little nonplussed by it all. He believes that there will always be an element of cynicism in sport. To that end, he can understand why Kilkenny picked up his black card and also why Keegan reached for his GPS.

"You're never going to get rid of cynical play. A player is going to do absolutely whatever they can - I would have taken off my jersey and thrown it at Dean Rock, to put him off."

"So this is the game. I am going to do what I can to win. Now, if it affects the team negatively and the result negatively, then it's the wrong decision.

"But that's what you're planning to do. There's always the opportunity to be negative. And that's why the lads probably did it in the last 10 minutes, because they saw the opportunity in something negative they were doing."

"Where do you draw the line? The referee sending you off, you know you've crossed the line then, and then you look back and you say, 'Jesus, was that the right decision' and how did it affect my team?"

McMahon pointed out that players will always test the boundaries. And on this occasion the black card rule was there to be exploited.

"I don't know how many times I have to talk about this black card thing. It would have much more impact if Ciarán got sinbinned and you had 14 men and they had a spare man to kick the ball to instead of kicking the ball over the sideline."

But is a win-at-all-costs attitude not counter-productive for the GAA in the long run?

McMahon reckons that GAA teams haven't always led the way in terms of good behaviour but points out that despite that, the asssocation has survived and thrived.

"Well, I grew up watching Gaelic football that was much tougher than it is today, so what example did they set?" McMahon asks.

Some of the tackles that you can watch back in games, I love them! You don't have them anymore, so does it really have an impact? It's all well and good saying there's certain things you shouldn't be doing and that's fine, I agree with that, but the players that came before us, it was a much rougher sport. Does that make us a rougher team? Probably not."

Another year down and another winner's medal is in the pocket. He has plenty to keep him going with a new book titled 'The Choice' on the way next month. But those hoping for an insight into the Dublin dressing room will be disappointed.

However, he admits this success meant more to him than the rest as his father battles cancer.

"It's been difficult this year because of my dad. The gift the lads have given me is amazing. Funny enough, after the game, he was trying to run down to the gate in the Hogan Stand.

"I was going, 'Stay up there', because where they were sitting was just covered in Mayo fans all the way up the steps.

"So I said, 'stay up there' and jumped in. I was running up the steps... they were pulling out of me and cursing me. And they weren't to know, to be honest.

"It was special for me. It was probably a bit more special than any other All-Ireland because who knows?

"And that's the thing with this team. We're very grateful for what we have.

"I think it was the league final last year, a man came in to us and he only had a couple of days to live.

"Little things like that make us not give a s**t about what people say to us in the papers. Life is too short to be listening to people that talk bad about us."

Irish Independent

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