‘But they are not a dirty team’
How many times have you heard people defend teams after we have witnessed acts of violence on the sports fields. It is a common reaction after some player has committed a particularly bad foul. “But he is not a dirty player!”
Does it matter? It is a poor response and seeks to defend what sometimes is indefensible.
We witnessed it again on Saturday last as the All Blacks went all out to revenge the Irish defeat in Chicago. From the start they were intent on stopping the Irish, by fair or foul means, and they got away with it.
There is no doubt that they are a great rugby team, but they should not be allowed to cross the line in order to maintain that greatness. In the aftermath there were 12 indiscretions that were examined by the Citing Commissioners and 11 of those indiscretions were by All Black players - which is a damning statistic.
The officials were very lenient on the day and while the incident involving Sam Cane and Robbie Henshaw could be termed accidental, the swinging arm of Malakai Fekitoa on Simon Zebo should have been dealt with by a red card.
The Irish captain, Rory Best, did his best to bring the referee up to speed with the rules but he was given a very poor hearing. It just goes to show that referees in all sports have a great responsibility and the most important aspect of that responsibility is the welfare of players. On Saturday the Irish players were not afforded that duty of care.
It is also time to bin this stock response of 'he is not a dirty player' or 'they are not a dirty team!'
It is not just rugby that is afflicted by violence. We have had a litany of violent flare-ups in GAA games in Donegal and the North-West in the last four to six weeks. And on Sunday we had another controversial end to a game - the Donegal U-21 hurling championship between St. Eunan’s and Buncrana.
It is not good enough and all of these incidents need to be dealt with severely.
On a footnote to Sunday’s ‘final’, there was something weird about the proceedings. Three teams entered the Donegal U-21 hurling championship - Buncrana, St. Eunan’s and Aodh Ruadh. A draw was made and Aodh Ruadh were the winners and went straight through to the final. But then the Ballyshannon side withdrew from the competition and Buncrana and St. Eunan’s (who were to play a semi-final) were told on Saturday that the game was, in fact, the final. Hardly a satisfactory way to run any competition. And what of Aodh Ruadh? Why did they enter a competition and then pull out when in the final? We have read about occurrences like this back in the 1920s.
In a letter to the editor (on this page) a former Down player, now living in Donegal, has strong views on negative play, and players being rewarded for it. In relation to his view of Lee Keegan getting the Player of the Year this year, I would be in agreement. I don’t think Keegan deserved the award because of his negative role (it could be called worse than negative). But then it was the playing members of the Gaelic Players’ Association who chose the winner.
There is plenty to agree with in the letter, especially in relation to the emphasis on strength and conditioning, etc. But as regards football being more fluid and end to end in the 1980s and 1990s, I’m not so sure. There was plenty of poor football back then, too. But I suppose the one big issue nowadays is teams trying to copy the defensive football style without having any idea how to best utilise it.
The introduction of the ‘mark’ is a start, but it should be accompanied by a number of other stipulations. All players should be back in their starting formation for kick-outs (the same as for the throw-in). That would make the ‘mark’ much more valuable as the player making the ‘mark’ would be able to kick the ball forward for a one-on-one competition. The fast corner-forward would then be back in the game and speed would be able to compete on a more even footing with muscle.
I was at a senior schools’ game on Tuesday in Ballyshannon where the home side hit five goals to defeat a gallant Coláiste na Carraige. Oisin Rooney is a handful at full-forward for any team with legs like ‘Rambo’ Gavigan. It was a pity that he was injured during the summer and not able to play any part for the Donegal minors.
On the other side, I watched a gem in Aaron Doherty. He scored 1-9 from centre half-back and threatened to win the game singlehandedly. He is as talented a 16-year-old as we have seen in Donegal for a long time.