Tuesday 20 March 2018

Bosses should lay off taking the mic

Eamonn Sweeney

I was going to write a piece on the Irish soccer team's two excellent victories over the past week. But Giovanni Trapattoni's decision to omit Shane Long from the starting line-up against Macedonia and his premature substitution of the Reading player against Italy means this column is boycotting the team.

Then I was going to write something about how Cork and Kerry's imperious progress through the Munster football championship augurs well for a classic final in Killarney. But Conor Counihan's refusal to take my advice and start Pearse O'Neill at midfield means he's in the bad books too. If Declan Kidney doesn't name Conor Murray and Felix Jones in his World Cup squad, well I'm not even going to acknowledge that the tournament is taking place. And Paul Cook might give Rafaelle Cretaro a few more starts at Sligo Rovers if he ever wants the League of Ireland to get a mention here again.

Okay this is nonsense (though I guarantee I'll get at least one email from someone who has taken it seriously). But it's no dafter than the decision of seven or eight inter-county managers to boycott RTE interviews because the station has failed to crown Brian Carthy as heir to Micheál ó Muircheartaigh.

L'affaire Carthy is one of those stories which makes you check if it's April 1. Because here you have intelligent men like Mickey Harte, Brian Cody, Kieran McGeeney, Conor Counihan, Justin McNulty, Kevin Walsh and Mickey Moran, (Glenn Ryan was named as one of the signatories of a letter to RTE but says he didn't give his permission), getting the wrong end of the stick to a spectacular extent.

It's very hard to see that any injustice has been done to Brian Carthy. Yet this protest seems to be driven by a notion that since Carthy has spent more time working in RTE than his fellow sports broadcasters he's entitled to get the big games which were formerly ó Muircheartaigh's province, as though some form of broadcasting primogeniture applies.

What nonsense. These managers who bristle with hurt on Carthy's behalf should take a look at the economic situation in this country. People are getting laid off left, right and centre, losing their homes and being forced to emigrate in order to support their families. Yet we're supposed to be outraged because one broadcaster can't pick and choose the exact games he wants to cover for his employer. But this is how it goes, we don't always get the gig we want.

It beggars belief that inter-county managers have decided to get involved to this extent in what amounts to a territorial squabble at work. After all, it's in the nature of the GAA that these managers are amateurs who hold down full-time jobs of their own which make them familiar with the world of work. Cody and Harte are teachers and would presumably be unimpressed if parents made threats to withdraw their kids from school unless they had final say over who taught which subjects and when they taught them.

I normally have a lot of respect for most of the managers involved in this current imbroglio but they would be better off letting Brian Carthy fight his own battles. The kindest interpretation of their action is they are being driven by misplaced loyalty but you could also construe the boycott as self-important muscle-flexing. Were RTE to cave in on this, a precedent could be set which might lead to managers believing they can dictate who gets to cover Gaelic games in national papers and on local radio stations, something which would hardly be conducive to independent and honest journalism.

You'd wonder at the process by which all these managers independently came to the conclusion that Carthy is being hard done by. Mickey Harte's statement that, "Carthy is not looking to take over the show, he's just looking for a fair crack of the whip and that's not happening at the moment," would seem to indicate that the commentator has bemoaned his lot to at least one of the bosses involved. Perhaps the Roscommon man should consider whether having inter-county managers campaigning on his behalf is necessarily a good thing given that he could be seen to be under something of an obligation to them from now on. I am casting no aspersions on his professionalism or honesty but it will surely be tough for him to put hard questions to managers who have so blatantly declared their support on this occasion.

Head of RTE sport Ryle Nugent has pointed out that RTE have "chosen not to appoint another lead commentator following the retirement of Micheál ó Muircheartaigh." It seems a reasonable decision, the end of an era normally presages a period of rebuilding and it's natural that the station wants to spread the responsibility around and see who makes the best impression. The station's GAA coverage has been weaker than its coverage of rugby or soccer in recent years and has been badly in need of a shake-up anyway.

Don't the managers see that they're playing favourites and that in the unlikely event of Nugent bending to their wishes, there might be more high-profile work for Carthy but less for Darragh Maloney and Marty Morrissey?

GAA president Christy Cooney was right to note that "I wouldn't expect RTE to come along and tell us who we should assign out staff to the various roles here in the GAA." By forgetting the simple principle involved the managers have done themselves and the GAA a disservice.

Politicians aren't allowed to say who should cover the Ard Fheis, playwrights can't handpick congenial theatre critics to cover their work and inter-county managers shouldn't try to dictate who covers their matches. You do your jobs lads and we'll do ours.

Confidential Note To Sports Editor: My good friend Katy Perry has sent you a letter saying that if I'm ever sacked she won't let Life Magazine print any more photos of her in her underwear. No pressure like. Just saying.

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