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Wed 02-Nov-2005 23:21
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Press Box Lad
GAA Are As Much To Blame
Sadly, the nation’s sports pages this week have been filled with one depressing story after another.
It began with the debacles in Australia for the past two weeks. Then it was the turn of soccer to hit the headlines as Roy Keane, in my opinion, was censored for telling the truth about what’s going wrong in Old Trafford.
Yesterday, the back pages were dominated by a mixture of the demise of Best Mate, the darling of the racing world, and the disgraceful incidents which led to young Dean Delaney being hospitalised after the Laois SHC Final.
Now, it says something that a horse being killed can get as much press in some quarters as the two incidents outlined above that are connected to the GAA.
Perhaps it’s time the GAA got a bit of a rude awakening.
There was much talk in the press over this past while about what transpired Down Under and while the conduct of the home side (which you could be forgiven for thinking they were sent out to do) must be condemned in the strongest terms possible, I can’t help feeling that the Irish did little to aid their own cause.
In the past few years I have been a great advocate of the hybrid game and I still believe it has a future. The incidents this year cannot be overlooked but I firmly believe that our representatives could have been fair better prepared.
You need a certain type of player going out there and if you ask me it was hardly surprising what transpired given the makeup of our squad. Colm O’Rourke mysteriously disappeared off RTE last Friday, presumably just because somebody didn’t like what he said. I will admit, he may have been better advised to phrase his views slightly differently, but, as with Keane, the Meath legend was seemingly muzzled for speaking what many would accept to be true.
As if all the nitpicking that ensued after Australia wasn’t bad enough, what happened in Laois at the weekend only serves to prove that the GAA would want to get their own house in order before telling others how to tidy up theirs. At the beginning of this year, I stated that I was vehemently opposed to the forthcoming rule that precludes underage players from playing adult games. Doubtless, those in favour of the new measure will point to what happened between Camross and Castletown as an example why, though in a way they are missing the point.
In another column, I commented on the case involving the young Laois player Donie Brennan who was left waiting on First Aid for some time after a tempestuous Leinster U-21 FC clash between Wicklow and Laois. In my view, that such was allowed to happen was neglecting players safety and a dereliction of responsibility by those organising the competition. The case in Aughrim may have been just a genuine oversight which, although it shouldn’t have happened, was put firmly into the ha’penny place by what happened in the Laois SHC Final replay.
I have always believed that if a player is good enough, he is old enough, as young Delaney and the other youngster who played such an important role in the drawn Laois SHC final, Zane Keenan, were obviously deemed to be. Players of any age should never have to take the playing fields of this country in fear of their own safety and that they do points to a much more serious problem which needs to be addressed.
Though I don’t know if there’s honestly a whole lot referees can do when something as awful as what happened in Portlaoise on Monday did. I watched a film recently in which one of the characters was very particular about who he admitted to his ‘circle of trust’ as he called it. Such a circle should, I believe, exist within the GAA, though if it did, events in Laois at the weekend must surely have put a break in it, not only there, but for the whole organisation.
Clubs must be able to trust both their players and mentors, players must be able to trust mentors, both their own and the opposition, and referees must be able to trust both. Confrontation beween rival players is nothing new, even if it’s not right, but when mentors start becoming involved that takes things to a new and more dangerous level.
To add to the two weeks of woe for the GAA, it has emerged that young Laois duo Brendan Quigley and Colm Begley will be joining Irish exports Tadhg Kennelly, Setanta O’hAilpin and his brother in Australia and that a third O’hAilpin was considering doing likewise. Begley stated in an interview that he would not be put off by the type of roughhouse tactics employed by Chris Johnson and his Aussie colleagues.
If anything, some of what goes on in our own games must be more off-putting to young players and parents of those starting out on their careers. That is something the GAA can ill-afford.
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