Tuesday 18 June 2019

Comment: Michael Ryan has realised 'void' left by media blackout adds unwelcome burden


Tipperary boss Michael Ryan says he regrets his decision not to speak to the media after Sunday’s defeat to Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary boss Michael Ryan says he regrets his decision not to speak to the media after Sunday’s defeat to Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Relations between GAA teams and its media can be strained at the best of times.

Things have come a long way since reporters wandered into dressing rooms after matches to seek out the thoughts of the protagonists. Like everything else in the GAA, that relationship is much more sophisticated now. The media want as much access as possible while counties put a premium on the sanctity of the dressing room. Less is more as far as they are concerned. So it stands to reason that there would be friction between the two.

In many cases, the media in general would consider the teams and management much too sensitive for their own good.

Despite the advent of sports psychologists, it still seems the greatest motivation in the GAA world is a quote or a headline that can be used to fuel the fire. Providing that fuel is to be avoided at all costs. At times, it feels like at least some of the game is played over the airwaves and on paper before the ball is ever thrown in.

That sensitivity can be matched only by the preciousness of sections of the media when a team pulls in the horns and refuses to cooperate.

In 2014, Kieran McGeeney decided he wasn't going to deal with the media as a response to the coverage their pre-game scrap with Cavan. Aside from McGeeney's presence, Armagh were an off-broadway team at that stage having been relegated from Division 2 that spring.


Parts of media reacted in a predictable way and howled with derision at McGeeney's decision. There were other ways to cover the Armagh senior football team but that didn't matter. In that period, there were more pieces written about Armagh than there ever would have been in the normal course of business.

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So when Tipperary's hurling management made it clear last Sunday that they wouldn't talk to the media after their defeat to Limerick, it looked like another chapter would be written in the book of GAA media spats.

But Michael Ryan went on Tipp FM yesterday morning to defuse the situation and move on.

"Can I just reference the reason why I didn't speak to the media on Sunday immediately after the match," Ryan said. "It was a decision we had taken prior to the campaign in the light of the fact that we were facing four Sundays in a row and what we don't do is factor in that we're going to lose a match.

"We're always very positive about our upcoming games but in the aftermath of the match, and after a loss, we should have reviewed that," he said.

Ryan confirmed that they did not inform the media of his decision in advance. "We make a lot of decisions and we communicate what we think we need to communicate, or should communicate, but that was one of our internal decisions. We're playing week after week after week and our focus is on our team.

"However, I do acknowledge that there was a void created and hence why I'm on this morning and one of the reasons to come out is to acknowledge our opponents Limerick.

"It's effectively the purpose of my call (to Tipp FM) this morning. Number one, our decision should have been reviewed and number two, of course we needed to acknowledge Limerick. I certainly regretted that. Limerick were excellent and we turn to our next challenge against Cork."

In many ways, it's not a big deal. The GAA supporter cares nothing for the plight of the journalist and their issues around access. They want their team and their game covered. How that comes about is of little relevance to them.

But it does matter that in refusing to talk, Tipp opened up another battlefield at a time when their full focus needs to on what happens between the white lines. Ryan noted too that his silence had created a "void" that would inevitably be filled with talk about his team selection and tactics that can't aid his side. When Pat Gilroy took charge of the Dublin footballers, he recognised that vacuum could be harmful and held almost weekly press conferences in the build-up to games.

Those press conferences in St Clare's gave access that might have made him uneasy but it also offered a chance to control the narrative. Those days Gilroy would happily speak passionately about various issues, in the knowledge that the airwaves and papers would be filled with his thoughts on championship structures and player welfare rather than the Dublin senior footballers. From a management point of view, it was the lesser of two evils.

The brickbats will have rained down on Ryan for the last couple of days. With no explanation as to why it went wrong for them last week, people were free to draw their own conclusions. Credit to Ryan, he recognised that and went on radio yesterday morning to end the short-lived media ban.

It remains to be seen what Tipperary thought it would achieve but they are fighting for their championship lives over the next couple of weeks. They have enough to be getting on with.

"I will be speaking to the media if they want to speak to me after the game. Anything that is a distraction to our hurling is not welcome," he said.

That is something that everyone can agree on.

Irish Independent

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