Manus Boyle: Diarmuid Connolly victim of trial by television

Manus Boyle: Diarmuid Connolly victim of trial by television

Mickey Harte, Jim McGuinness and now, Jim Gavin, have let rip at the Sunday Game and those who appear on it. Mickey Harte and the Tyrone squad had refused to have anything to do with the national broadcaster after they alleged that RTE had insulted the memory of his daughter, Michaela.

They were also furious at the rant that Joe Brolly went on about Sean Cavanagh. Brolly accused Cavanagh of being an absolute disgrace after his tackle on Monaghan’s Conor McManus. McManus was pulled down in a rugby style tackle according to Brolly, and everything that was rotten with the game was typified by that tackle.

The Tyrone lads and Mickey Harte released a statement and refused to enter any interviews with the national broadcaster.

Jim McGuinness made it very clear after the opening round of the Ulster championship match against Antrim in 2011 that the disrespect shown, not only to his team, but also to Ryan Bradley, who was chosen as man of the match, was unacceptable and he would not tolerate it any further.

On both occasions the Sunday Game released half-hearted apologies but whether they were sincere or not would be open to debate.

It was Dublin’s Jim Gavin who let loose last Sunday after his side’s emphatic victory against Westmeath. Gavin refused to do any one-on-one interviews with RTE or Sky Sports. Gavin believed while there may not have been a deliberate media campaign against Diarmuid Connolly, he was still entitled to due process, something that Gavin felt he did not receive.

Pat Spillane on the Sunday Game said that “you prod a bear, you get a reaction; you prod Diarmuid Connolly, you antagonise Diarmuid Connolly and you always get a reaction.” He went on then to quote the rule and tell the audience what suspension was in place for the incident. They showed the incident a fair few times. Connolly was tried and judged in those minutes.

RTE would argue that they were just getting opinions on the matter but was every game scrutinised in the same fashion? Was the behaviour of every player scrutinised in the same way? Of course it wasn’t.

Gavin made it clear in his post-match interview last Sunday that at no point did he or Diarmuid Connolly condone or make excuses for what Connolly did and it was Gavin who, after consulting the county board officials, had decided to appeal the case, not Connolly.

Looking back on the incident, a ball went over the line; there were three Carlow players pulling and shoving Connolly. In Connolly’s mind he believed it was his line ball. Connolly is, for me, the type of player that is at his best when he plays on the edge. He is undoubtedly one of the finest players of his generation but his temper is suspect. Opposition players and managers play on that, and in my opinion, he gets very little protection.

I, like everyone else, do not condone what he did. You can’t push or put your hand on an official and yes Connolly was right to be suspended, there is no argument against that. Gavin himself is not arguing that fact, but what Gavin is saying, and it’s hard to argue against, is that there is a due process which every player has the right too. Connolly was not afforded that.

Of course, RTE the next day rolled out one of the good old boys in the GAA who suggested that Connolly’s suspension had nothing to do with the antics of those who were on the Sunday Game that night, but what else would they say? The perception is quite different. The mere fact that the public were made aware of the rule by both television providers and they detailed the resulting suspension, what exactly did people think was going to happen?

They also discussed Connolly’s past disciplinary record. It isn’t great, that’s true, but it should have nothing to do what happened against Carlow. Is it right that one of Dublin’s biggest threats to their elusive three in-a-row would have an ex-player as a pundit and he would have a go at one of Dublin’s finest? Kerry people would argue different but the perception is again quite different.

Gavin went on to say that he had a duty of care for the player and he believed that it was an attack on his good name. He went on to say that freedom of expression and opinion is an important part of our constitution in the Republic but it’s not absolute. He went further suggesting that you can’t attack somebody’s good name unwarranted. He, Gavin, believed they had done so in this instance.

You have to admire Gavin. It would have been easy to let it all pass and get on with the business of playing out the championship but he didn’t. He understands that it is players and their bond as players that make teams successful. It’s important to make sure that every player is treated accordingly with the greatest respect.

Again the Sunday Game crossed the line. Surely they should have let the referee’s report get as far as Croke Park first. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. I wonder how long they would get away with treating our national soccer players or rugby stars in the same manner? They wouldn’t because their organisations wouldn’t let it happen.

We need to stand up for all members of the Association and that includes Diarmuid Connolly.