Sport Hurling

Monday 18 December 2017

Vincent Hogan: Unjust Shore suspension has echoes of Keady affair

Andrew Shore's suspension will hit Wexford's hopes this year
Andrew Shore's suspension will hit Wexford's hopes this year
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

I've never met Andrew Shore, but I'd be surprised if he's a 25-times lower-caste human being than someone who spouts sectarian poison or chooses to spew out racist hate.

I can't quite see him as a few multiples worse than the hard chaw who trip-wires a brawl or, come to think of it, I don't have him down as a bigger social problem than anyone who spits, gouges or takes it upon themselves to, as the old euphemism goes, "interfere" with a referee.

But the GAA's justice system suggests that he might be all of these things and that's not just stupid, it's plain wrong.

Shore played hurling in the UK last October without appropriate clearance, an offence for which he is currently serving a 48-week suspension. Now the GAA has an obligation to uphold the integrity of its competitions, that much is inarguable. And there are plenty of people about who are, maybe, more than happy to play fast and loose with registration rules.

Indignation

But a calendar year because of a transfer that was one day out of the required time?

Indignation will, I don't doubt, shriek like a bagpipe from those who consider illegal use of players one of the more insidious blights on GAA affairs, particularly among the diaspora abroad. And it's true that the Association president, Liam O'Neill, has himself spoken of the glaring inequity in existing rules that means a man's punishment for racially abusing an opponent can be something as trivial as suspension for a couple of McKenna Cup weekends.

But in any argument about proportionate sentencing, who can reasonably justify a one-year ban for paperwork that's out by 24 hours?

Maybe Liam Dunne put it best this week with his observation that you could "half kill a fella on a hurling field" and not encounter censure of anything close to that severity.

Shore is adamant, incidentally, that he understood everything to be in order for him to play in a development match for Warwickshire club, Roger Casements. You would have thought that primary responsibility for this not being the case would surely rest with the club.

No matter, he was suspended by the British Provincial Council and, having failed in an appeal, must now take his case to the GAA's Central Appeals Committee.

His plight, inevitably, tosses up memories of the so-called "Keady Affair", a story that convulsed hurling 26 years ago.

Tony Keady was one of the finest centre-backs of his or, most likely, any generation, but was found to have played illegally in the New York Championship during the summer of '89. This led to a one-year suspension that hindsight now tells us gouged a great, terminal hole in his inter-county career.

The ban ruled him out of Galway's bid for three-in-a-row (they had won the All-Irelands of '87 and '88) and, though he hurled on with the county for another four years, it was never quite with the same glorious expression of freedom that so ennobled his game. Many years after Keady retired at 29, he was interviewed by TG4 for their Laochra Gael series.

The interview ended with a question of what single line he might choose to have carved into the headstone above his grave. "They should have let me play in '89," he responded, almost involuntarily.

Keady was assured by club officials that there would be no repercussions to him lining out for 'Laois' in that Championship, albeit the alarm bells ought to have been ringing when he was listed as Bernard Keady in the match programme.

Galway took their case to the Management Committee and, eventually, an emergency Central Council Meeting on the Tuesday before they were due to play Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final, Cyril Farrell threatening to pull his team from the game. Even the Tipp delegate voted for his re-instatement, but the appeal was still defeated 18-20.

To this day, Keady believes that the GAA used him to set a high profile example to others.

Andrew Shore may suspect a similar kind of 'justice' kicking in now. He was a key member of the Wexford hurling team that so electrified last year's Championship and, given Keith Rossiter's retirement, the county can ill-afford to lose another front-line defender.

But he has been unavailable to Dunne, even for training purposes, since the imposition of the suspension last November.

Sounds as if they've taken an army Saracen to resolve the issue of a missing bike.

 

Harte 'concussion' criticism wide of the mark

There was just the faintest whiff of vigilantism coming off the criticism that assailed Mickey Harte over the Sean Cavanagh "concussion" this week.

It is a pity when good people get used in the opportunistic way that resulted in Tyrone's manager being depicted this week as somehow ambivalent towards the health of one of his players.

I doubt there is a manager in sport today with a keener awareness of the danger heavy collisions can carry than one who helped carry a fatally injured Paul McGirr off a football field in June of '97.

Harte's misfortune last weekend was to have a single post-match quote held up to forensic light after the National League game against Derry. He described Cavanagh's injury as a "mild concussion" when no such injury had - technically - been actually diagnosed. If it had, we can be pretty certain that Cavanagh would not have resumed playing.

Yet, for this imprecise phraseology (and for having the courtesy to answer media questions immediately afterwards) the Tyrone manager faced a cacophony of criticism that was as inappropriate as it was unfair.

He deserved better.

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