Friday 19 January 2018

'The Sunday Game panel can't be involved in character assassination' - Paul Grimley backs Jim Gavin stand


Diarmuid Connolly and manager Jim Gavin
Diarmuid Connolly and manager Jim Gavin

Michel Verney

Former Armagh football boss Paul Grimley has given his backing to Jim Gavin's hard-line stance against RTÉ and the Sunday Game, insisting that the national broadcaster are not entitled "to participate in character assassinations of GAA players".

Dublin manager Gavin launched an attack on RTÉ following remarks made by Sunday Game pundit Pat Spillane surrounding Diarmuid Connolly's push on linesman Ciaran Branagan during their Leinster SFC quarter-final defeat of Carlow earlier this month.

Connolly was subsequently handed a 12-week ban and will not be available until the All-Ireland semi-final, should the Dubs make it that far.

Grimley is "fully supportive" of Gavin's defence of the Dublin attacker, as he feels pundits are prejudicing disciplinary decisions.

Paul Grimley. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Grimley. Photo: Sportsfile

"Jim made points about protecting the good name of Diarmuid Connolly and not allowing a prosecution to be held on television before the CCCC meeting, and it's a valid argument," Grimley told the Irish Independent.

"The CCCC would've had to act because of the Sunday Game highlighting the issue. RTÉ might come up with the argument that they're entitled to do that, but they're not entitled to participate in a character assassination on a player.

"They're entitled to make a comment, but they have to be very guarded until the guy is actually found guilty. It gives the impression that the Sunday Game runs the GAA to a certain extent, certainly through the summer months.

"A lot of these overreactions that pundits make on the show have severe consequences for players, managers and their teams. The points made by Pat Spillane preceded any sort of fair hearing that Diarmuid Connolly would have got."

Grimley, who was involved in a media stand-off in 2014 following the suspension of three of his players after a pre-match altercation against Cavan, believes the Sunday Game should pay attention to the example set by BBC's Match of the Day in such situations and reserve judgement until a disciplinary decision is confirmed.

Grimley said that "inviting or inventing controversy" should not be the modus operandi of the Sunday Game and he feels the amateur nature of the GAA means hurlers and footballers should not be under the same scrutiny as "paid professionals" like in soccer and rugby.

"If their job criteria is that they must invent controversy or invite controversy on to the show for ratings then it's a poor state of affairs. You're dealing here with reality TV. You have a paid professional who feels they have the right to slag or discredit a player live on television who's an amateur," he said.

"There's something morally not right with that, with fellas getting well paid on television to sit and cause controversy. They're discrediting a fella who has a working life and a family life outside the GAA.

"If he was playing for Manchester United and it was Eric Cantona, they're probably entitled to do that because he's paid to play football and not kung fu kick people. But how do you defend the Sunday Game against amateurs?"

"It has a national audience and things like this stay in people's minds. The rest of Connolly's season is in bits, his whole summer has been destroyed and that can't be defended. It seems pre-planned. Pat Spillane will probably get a right to reply next week, something which RTÉ don't give many other people.

"Pundits make a lot of good points, but they should be more guarded against the personal attacks on people. You don't get it in rugby or soccer commentary, so why should we put up with it?"

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Irish Independent

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