Sunday 21 January 2018

Martin Breheny: Rory Gallagher and Joe Schmidt have treated the public like fools

Joe Schmidt and Rory Gallagher insult our intelligence with laughable defence of indefensible acts

Neil McGee of Donegal is back to face Tyrone
Neil McGee of Donegal is back to face Tyrone
Joe Schmidt who argued CJ Stander should not have got a red. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

In normal circumstances, loyalty to a colleague is an admirable trait but when it's underpinned by a totally unsustainable argument, there can be no mistaking what it is: an affront to everyone's intelligence.

Common in all teams sports - but no less tedious for that - last weekend produced two particularly brazen attempts to defend the indefensible.

The 'defenders' were Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt and Donegal football manager Rory Gallagher, the former implying that knocking a player out cold was no more than an unavoidable hazard of the game, the latter describing a forearm to the head as a mere shrug of the hand.

It's difficult to know which was the more outlandish. But then that's what we've come to expect in a world where my Johnny is never wrong - even when he is.

Schmidt may have done an excellent job in getting Ireland ready to deliver such an outstanding performance against South Africa but his argument that CJ Stander's dismissal was "very, very harsh" is beyond laughable.

Stander steamed in on Pat Lambie after the South African had kicked the ball and was unable to protect himself. Ireland's No 6 tried to block the kick but arrived late, high and dangerous.

Lambie was in a fully upright position, yet Stander jumped so high that his hip crashed at full power into the out-half's head, knocking him out cold, out of the rest of the game and out of the second Test next Saturday.

Despite the seriousness, Schmidt argued that Stander should not have been sent off.

"Once you're in the air, you can't change your trajectory," he reasoned as if to imply that barrelling into an upright opponent's unprotected head is, as the Aussies might say, 'fair dinkum'.

Now Stander may have done nothing wrong deliberately but a player has a responsibility to ensure an opponent's safety. Otherwise it's akin to driving a car at 200mph and, if there's an accident, blaming the speed rather than the driver.

It's very difficult to stop quickly from 200mph so let's ignore the fact that the car was being driven well beyond the speed limit.

Suggesting that a player who left an opponent in hospital with a reckless lunge should not be sent off was not one Schmidt's smarter moments.

Gallagher's defence of Neil McGee 24 hours later doesn't stand up to even the most basic scrutiny either.

McGee's right-arm smash into Ruairi Corrigan's face as the Donegal full-back emerged with the ball close to his own goal called for an immediate red card, which referee Maurice Deegan duly delivered.

But instead of accepting it as the correct decision, Gallagher sought to introduce a diversion, followed by a curious description of McGee's actions.

"I thought I heard a whistle for a free out and Neil is adamant that he heard a whistle for a free out and then he kind of shrugged his man off," said Gallagher.

Now even if they both thought they heard a whistle, why did they assume it was for a free out?

And if McGee indeed believed that he had been awarded a free, why not enjoy his good fortune, rather than lashing out at Corrigan?

As for Gallagher's portrayal of events ("he kind of shrugged his man off"), it brings a new meaning to a few words, none of which carry any credibility.

Donegal have had solid grounds for complaint over several seasons about the treatment Michael Murphy receives as opponents seek to minimise his impact.

He is well able to look after himself but that's not the point. The Donegal captain is fouled off the ball far more often than his free count suggests, so Gallagher would be better off arguing that very legitimate point rather than trying to defend a player after he has committed the most obvious red card offence.

It's understandable that coaches and managers will support their players on most occasions but surely there are times when it's better to say nothing at all about an incident rather than offering explanations that are totally at variance with what the public has seen.

We all acknowledge the expertise that the likes of Schmidt and Gallagher bring to their roles but when they try to tell us that we can't believe what we see then it's time to point out that we're not fools and should not be treated as such.

Irish Independent

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