GAA gossip grows legs at every turn but Tipp can rise above latest furore
As sure as night follows day, the GAA rumour mill will never run out of fuel.
The situation in the Tipperary hurling camp highlights how a day rarely goes by without rumblings from a county about something or other; be it some young star heading to America for the summer, a potentially season-threatening injury or a shemozzle during training.
Some are true, others are wide of the mark. Given the parochial nature of our games, and the advent of modern mediums like WhatsApp and Snapchat, this gossip spreads like wildfire and you're a hot commodity if you happen to stumble upon such privileged 'information'.
Things hit the public domain, growing legs at an extraordinary rate, with embellishment a staple of the GAA diet as few 'hurlers on the ditch' let the truth get in the way of a good story.
There's rarely smoke without fire but in GAA circles, the house is often burnt to the ground before any concrete facts emerge. It's amazing the ridiculous conclusions people jump to on the topic of the day and if I took all rumours and idle talk to heart during my playing career, I'd have hung up the hurl long ago through sheer frustration.
However, we're heading into troubled waters when wild accusations are being thrown at players and those close to them and the situation surrounding Cathal Barrett's exclusion from the Tipp panel for "disciplinary reasons" spawned all sorts of ridiculous speculation.
Every danger associated with the digital age and social media was showcased, with offensive 'details' openly displayed and commented on across various platforms. In the blink of an eye, players who were heroes up until last month's league final defeat to Galway are now the villains.
Only the personnel in the Tipp camp know exactly what's fact or fiction concerning unfounded reports of altercations between senior players and hotel rows, but the overreaction to their Munster SHC quarter-final defeat to Cork is nothing new, as detailed by Tipp legend Nicky English over the weekend.
"The rumours are totally untrue from what I hear," the former Premier boss told Newstalk's Yates On Sunday show. "This is typical in Tipperary that there's rumours after games when they lose.
"There's been a huge amount of rubbish on social media. There's certainly no punch-up, that's the basis for all the allegations and rumours, horrible rumours about the players and their families. Really it's sad, to be honest."
With All-Star defender Barrett facing a spell on the sidelines recovering from a knee injury picked up against the Rebels, he may have been a sacrificial lamb as Tipp manager Michael Ryan looks to make a statement and steady the Premier ship.
English feels he may yet return despite everything, however, adding: "There has been talk that he had warnings in the past for his discipline, or maybe lack of discipline, and that there was some incident. But if they're still in the championship (later on in the year) he will definitely have to be looked at again."
In order for Barrett to have that opportunity, the big personalities that landed Liam MacCarthy last September, like captain Pádraic Maher, Seamus Callanan and last year's skipper Brendan Maher, need to come to the fore again, and there's a strong possibility that they will.
Much like Brian Cody's tenure in Kilkenny, Ryan has excelled at keeping a closed shop throughout his reign with the outside world not privy to any happenings within the camp and their attention has no doubt turned to events inside the the white lines and doing what they do best.
There were no murmurings of discontent until this situation blew up and things don't just capitulate overnight, especially as they guarded against complacency as early as All-Ireland final night last year. Tipp haven't gone away just yet.
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