In recent weeks two high profile managers have been hit with suspensions for the abuse of the rules. Davy Fitzgerald, who has transformed Wexford hurling this year, has been hit with a eight week ban for encroaching on to the pitch and confronting a couple of Tipperary players in the process; the other manager, Kieran McGeeney, Armagh’s football manager, who has been suspended for twelve weeks for something he may or may not have said to Joe McQuillan, who was a linesman at one of Armagh’s national league games.
First and foremost I am not going to comment on whether McGeeney did or didn’t say anything to McQuillan. I don’t know; I wasn’t there, and is something that it is important to say, as McGeeney’s suspension is on the word of one man against that of another. One is deemed to be right, the other has no opinion. He is guilty and wrong, full stop.
We’ll go back to Davy first; Fitz had very little cause to argue against his suspension as it was clear for the world to see on television. It was well documented on the Sunday Game as well and all over Twitter and YouTube before for you could blink.
What will it mean for Davy? Well he will not stand on the line to give instructions to his players; he will sit up in the stand, with a two way radio or mobile phone and give instructions in that way. He will return to the dressing room at half-time and point out any changes that have to be made and with the press of a button will tell any of his management team to make whatever changes he sees necessary during the course of the game.
Some might argue that the players will miss his presence on the line during the game. Personally I don’t buy into that. The players are concentrating on their own game; on the instructions that they have been given and with the noise of the crowd, they hear nothing anyway. Did I ever think that looking at a manager on the line motivated those on the field? Not at all. Players motivate themselves or by seeing the actions of their teammates will get them to lift their games, not someone standing on the line.
Davy did more by running onto the field and protecting one of his players in terms of motivation for the Wexford lads than anything that he could ever say. The players know he is willing to do anything for them; the GAA giving him the suspension will only bond the Wexford players more.
Do I think he was right? Protecting his own player is one thing but putting his hand on any of the Tipperary lads was wrong. An example had to be made as to make sure that this sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated. He was not the first to do it. But he is the first for a long time to be suspended for it.
Like refereeing if the GAA are going to eradicate this sort of behaviour out of the games then they have to be consistent. The GAA have set the marker for the rest of the year in terms of incursions onto the field. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up.
McGeeney’s case, for me, is totally different. While Fitzgerald’s case was well known about, McGeeney’s was kept very quiet. Before we go any further, I am not disputing McQuillan’s opinion that McGeeney said something. However, it is wrong not to respect McGeeney’s right of being innocent until proven quality. Sorry that was wrong. You see, in the eyes of those who administer justice within the GAA and indeed most other sporting organisations, he is guilty, and the official’s word is gospel.
I understand the concept that there has to be certain rules and certain people have to govern, but “what if” and I say what if there was an underlying issue between both parties before this ever happened and one party decided to seek revenge. Could this scenario happen? Has it happened in the past? Will it happen in the future? Of course it will, this is Ireland.
The GAA is a brilliant organisation who have done more for communities the length and breadth of the country than any government or European union could ever have done. They have provided everything that both rural and urban communities needed. Indeed it would be fair to say that a lot of other sporting organisations have done similar work. However, it is time for the GAA to update much of what provides the rules in its games. When you have a situation where one person accuses another of saying or doing something without a third party in situ, you have a problem. Taking one person’s word, just because they hold a certain position in an organisation or indeed society, sends out the wrong message. Have we learned nothing from the sins of the past?
This is not just down to Joe McQuillan, who, to be fair, is one of the best match officials in the country, but like everyone else can have a bad day. But neither team managers or players are allowed to be critical of that fact. The GAA does not allow it, full stop. Yet they stand idle when a player or a manager is being hammered by television pundits or the media in general. Are they not all members of the same association? In making that difference they have created a divide. That has been there for years and will continue until the same respect is shown to everyone that is involved.
To be fair to Kieran McGeeney, he has shown great restraint in not being critical after games in television interviews when decisions have gone against his team. I hope someone in authority shows a bit of common sense in their approach to issues like this. It is time someone pulled all of the rule book or “the guide” into this century.