Tuesday 22 October 2019

Michael Verney and Tomás Ó Sé: 'Should McEntee apologise for verbal attack on journalist?'


Meath manager Andy McEntee. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Meath manager Andy McEntee. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Michael Verney and Tomás Ó Sé

THE Meath boss is at loggerheads with local paper after dispute following heavy defeat to Dublin

So should he apologise?

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YES - His reaction to standard query was wildly over the top and so unprofessional, writes Michael Verney.

Despite the impression which most people outside the industry have, the job of a sports journalist isn't quite as glamorous as you might think. The common impression is that watching and commenting on sport is a dream job and at times it can be, but things aren't always rosy.

It regularly involves awkward exchanges with sportspeople and feathers have to be ruffled in the search for the truth. But, as with any occupation, a job has to be done and answers have to be sought.

When a standard question about releasing footballers for this weekend's hurling championship - involving seven or eight of the Royal squad - was put to Meath football boss Andy McEntee in the wake of their Leinster final hammering to Dublin last Sunday, his reported reaction was totally over the top.

"Are you f**king mad? What sort of f**king question is that to ask me?" McEntee fumed at 'Meath Chronicle' reporter Jimmy Geoghegan in response to his question.

Emotions were high, and that's totally understandable, but to flip the lid in public at such a trivial question was uncalled for. I understand the heat of the moment, but that language shouldn't be aimed at a professional trying to do his or her job.

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By all accounts there has been no vendetta, or anything like it, against McEntee or the current senior squad from the Meath Chronicle, so to throw the toys out of the pram over that is unusual - to say the least.

And while the timing of the question was hardly ideal - although there was never going to be a good time to ask - Geoghegan was merely trying to inform the Meath public about the availability of players for their local championship, which is of great importance to their readers.

If McEntee had left the verbal barrage at that, little more would have been made of it, but to make a beeline for the reporter again at their team bus is inexcusable.

"I'll take the f**king head off you if I see you near the f**king dressing room again," McEntee allegedly barked at long-standing journalist Geoghegan, who has worked at the Chronicle since 2002.

The scenes after the final whistle of last year's devastating qualifier defeat to Tyrone in Navan highlighted McEntee's fire as he foamed at the mouth over some contentious refereeing decisions, but he went too far on this occasion and an apology is needed.

Were one of McEntee's players to react to him or his backroom in such a venomous tone, it's unlikely that they would be still involved with the squad to tell the tale, so the same rules should apply to the bainisteoir.

Whether he believes he's right or wrong - and given the time which has lapsed without an apology the former seems more accurate - there are times when you have to bite the bullet for the greater good.

The decision by the Chronicle to throw petrol on the fire and go public, rather than explore every available avenue behind the scenes to solve the problem, is questionable, but Meath football is the bigger picture.

Their preparations for a Round 4 qualifier tie on Saturday/Sunday week will be anything but ideal if this drags on, and it will unless some sort of resolution is found.

McEntee already has to try and lift morale off the floor, and this is the last sideshow he needs. The manager should take the bull by the horns, admit he was wrong and move on.

NO - Give the man some time to cool off, rather than put a gun to his head, writes Tomás Ó Sé.

It's hard to fathom now but for most of my playing career, the media were allowed into the dressing room immediately after games.

It was nothing like the sanitised version that exists today, where the journalists wait outside, or in the case of Croke Park, a specifically designed room. You'd still be towelling off and next thing someone might ask you for a few words. I'd usually fob them off. Or better still, be gone out of there before they came in. It wasn't going to help my football or change anything so I didn't see the benefit of talking.

But I've been in losing dressing rooms. I've come out of games wanting someone's head on a plate, feeling wronged and frustrated. So I can imagine what was going through Andy McEntee's mind after the game. They'd lost a Leinster final and had played desperately. And now he had to face the media and the people of Meath. And he's thinking about a thousand things, chief amongst them how to lift his side for the back door after a defeat like that. And some fella asks about hurlers being available? I'd have flipped.

You see, after a game like that you're hypersensitive. Like any good manager he'd go to war for his team. It must have felt like the progress they made this year was all for nothing. I've been there. Sometimes you take defeats like that personally.

McEntee was bruised and then he gets asked, let's be honest, a silly question. I don't know anything about the Meath club scene, but even I can tell you that their footballers won't be playing hurling a week out from the biggest game of their season.

I've met Andy McEntee a couple of times and he's a gentleman. Now I can't condone what he is reported to have said. That's just not on. But I know where McEntee was coming from. Even with the Tyrone thing last year, where he remonstrated with the referee afterwards. I didn't mind that. It showed the bit of the dog in him. Meath were always at their best when they had a bit of that in them.

I'm told that prior to this, there was a fairly good relationship with the Meath Chronicle and the journalist in question. In that case, it should never have come to this, where a local paper demands an apology from the county manager.

There is a certain way to do things. Surely there were diplomatic channels that could have been used to find a middle ground where the two men involved could come to an understanding?

Instead the paper put all of this out in the open and here we are talking about a man who manages a team in his spare time. He has a family and a job and a life beyond taking care of the Meath footballers. Give the man some time to cool off and approach him then, rather than put a gun to his head and demand an apology in front of the whole country. For that reason, I'd be reluctant to apologise.

So there's wrong on both sides. McEntee should never have said what he said but the paper needed to handle their business better. What they did was short sighted at best, opportunist at worst. And it certainly won't help the Meath footballers as they look to lick their wounds and recover in time for a round four qualifier.

You'll probably have a situation now where the Meath players will be slow to talk and that would be a pity. There's a similar situation with Tyrone and RTE where their players don't talk and it's a shame. You'd love to hear what they have to say.

In situations like this, the general public end up being the losers.

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