Tuesday 21 November 2017

Oval-ball rowdiness rarely ends in disgrace

IMAGINE this scenario. It's the morning of Monday, September 24 and Jim McGuinness wakes up in his Dublin hotel room. The warm memory of the previous day's All-Ireland final victory washes over him to be replaced by the contented glow of a job well done.

Suddenly, the phone rings and McGuinness is informed that his team and backroom staff had to be warned on several occasions to keep noise levels down. And that the corridors had to be patrolled between 4.30 and 6.0am to stop them disturbing other guests.

Can you imagine the outcry? The calls to Liveline demanding of Joe that something be done and how it is a disgrace that young GAA members are being immersed in this culture of drink? It didn't happen of course, at least not to Donegal. But Harlequins' director of rugby Conor O'Shea had to ring the Carlton Hotel in Galway to apologise for the behaviour of members of his club after last week's Heineken Cup victory over Connacht.

According to the Connacht Sentinel, players, staff and supporters returned to the hotel after celebrating their victory. And when the residents' bar closed at 3.0am, they simply moved the party upstairs to the rooms and two corridors.

But this is rugby and not Gaelic games or soccer, so it was all passed off as 'drunken rowdiness' and no harm done. It's strange the way one sport's 'drunken rowdiness' can be another sport's 'disgraceful scenes'.

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It's fair to say that if ten or so years ago someone had asked you to pick out the Premier League player most likely to round off his career with a hard-working stint as a midfielder in the second flight of the League of Ireland, you wouldn't have picked out Keith Gillespie.

The mercurial nature of Gillespie's talent, the apparent volatility of his character and his knack for attracting headlines made it seem like his eventual destination was more likely to figure in the News of the World than the Longford Leader.

But over the past season and a half, Gillespie has plied his trade in midfield with Longford Town and done with so with a diligent excellence which last week saw him selected to the Division One team of the year by his fellow players. He's 37 now, was declared bankrupt by a Belfast court two years ago and is a long way from the days when he terrorised defences in the colours of Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers. But all the same there's a certain honour in the way Keith Gillespie is spending the final years of his football career.

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Those Luddites among us who suspect that the archetypal Twitter statement is something along the lines of, "Mmmm, really enjoying this cake," won't have had their minds changed by the Sports Illustrated list of the 100 essential sporting Twitter accounts to follow.

SI include samples of the wisdom to be gleaned from these Tweets which include such gems as, "U all miss me right? I complete you," "So far no-one has coughed or yawned on me on this plane," "It'd be cool if quantum physics was trending," and "Rulers make bad lovers, put your kingdom up for sale".

A top 100 from this side of the pond wouldn't be any more enlightening. If you're that keen for the minute details of someone's personal life why not do the honest thing and stalk them instead? These days they'd be asking Dickie Rock to tweet at them. Ask your parents.

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FOLLOWING a recent item on John Leonard and how his personal life took a turn for the worse after he parted company with the Dublin senior football squad, it's worth noting the excellent work being done in this area.

The GPA has been running a professional counselling service for players through the Player Development Programme since 2010; a team of professional psychologists are in place nationwide to deal with players in difficulties and are supported since 2011 with a 24-hour player helpline. The Association has supported over 60 players through this programme so far -- most engagement would entail up to six counselling sessions. They have also put a number of players through residential addiction treatment programmes for issues such as gambling.

Fergus McDonnell

and Eamonn Sweeney

ssport@independent.ie

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