In the same week that Paul Grimley left his job as Armagh manager he broke his silence about the decision of the Armagh team management and players not to talk with the media during their championship campaign.
As you would expect from Paul Grimley, it was straight to the point and extremely honest. I played against the Grimleys; they played the game in the same manner and were Armagh to the bone. I listened to the interview a number of times and what came across was a manager standing up for the right of his players who he felt were treated unfairly.
Of course he discussed other items during the interview but it was his thoughts on the incident prior to the Cavan game that caught my attention. Before the Ulster championship kicks off there is always a press night where members of the county managements go along and are questioned on what may be their expectations for the summer ahead.
Armagh sent Peter McDonnell, who was a past manager of the team and according to Grimley he is very articulate. However he was there for two and half hours and nobody thought it was worthwhile interviewing him. He was upset, according to big Paul, and they felt that if no one was interested in hearing what they had to say then they would say nothing at all until after the Cavan game.
Then the incident at the parade happened and the former Armagh manager felt his team lined up behind the band in an orderly fashion and when the fight broke out they defended themselves. Of course because of many of the tactics that many Armagh teams in the past might have used, and I say might, because we are all guilty of bending the rules at times, Armagh lined up behind the Cavan flag and this was seen as intimidation. But as Grimley put it, it is seen as a unwritten rule that the home team always line up on the inside and all that was needed was for someone to change the flags; situation avoided. Remember that Dublin players and supporters may take exception to a team going for the pre-match kick-about at the Hill 16 end of Croke Park.
Maybe the fact that we have had a good few of these incidents in Ulster over the years we can see where the media might be of the opinion that it was a bit of a set up but the Armagh players were not happy with the negative attention they received out of the incident so they said fair enough we will just get on with the job in hand and forget about all the other stuff.
He went on to say that both he and the Cavan manager tried to stop the fighting but he didn’t at any time condone it. He felt that the players had to defend themselves and he wasn’t happy that they (Armagh) had three players suspended and the Cavan team only had two players suspended.
Grimley also made a point which I would have said was more important than all the rest. He said that the media would not treat a professional sports person in the way that some of the press treated the Armagh management team and players. He went on to suggest that if they treated the professionals in the same manner they would find it very difficult to get access to them, which to be fair is not far away from the truth.
The same respect is not warranted to amateurs. If the press want to speak to a professional soccer or rugby player they will contact the player’s club or agent; if they want to talk to most intercounty footballers or hurlers they get a hold of a number and just ring them. It could be at any time of the day and the GAA players will accommodate most everyone, yet it’s expected.
Grimley went on to say that they didn’t use it to invent that siege mentality that many in the media had reported. He said that it did go too far but it wasn’t intentional and he was glad when it was over.
We in Donegal have often got the brunt of the national media. How many times have we read or listened to television or radio interviews about incidents with Donegal players, poor discipline both on and off the field; we where a laughing stock at times. Thankfully we are in the news for the right reasons at the minute but that can change with the stroke of a pen or the click of a computer.
Even Colm O Rourke in his column last weekend asked why do the GAA insist on not showing any of the controversial incidents during a game in Croke Park on the big screens. They should show more respect for the people that support and follow the games. Colm would be considered more of a traditionalist than most but at some time we all have to jump into the next century and change.
Of course no good ever comes out of this sort of action and the pressure to resort to the business as usual will always come from above; sponsors, television contracts have to be sorted and of course in today’s world image is everything.
Glad to hear that former Derry captain Kevin McCloy is in a stable condition and recovering after losing his pulse and been revived by a defibrillator at a recent club game. I wish Kevin a speedy recovery and all the best for the future.