10 myths, mishaps and misconceptions

Myths, mishaps, and misconceptions. Inconvenient truths are plentiful in the GAA — here are 10 of the most high profile, writes John Fogarty.

August 27, 2006: Mayo players annoyed Dublin by training at their end, with some argy bargy ensuing.

Brolly’s rant

Joe Brolly, along with Eugene McGee, is regarded as the face of the black card but his remarkable outburst against Seán Cavanagh on RTÉ in the wake of his takedown of Conor McManus in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final did not precipitate the introduction of the card.

The automatic substitution for certain cynical fouls had been backed five months previously at Congress in Derry, which he attended and where he took the opportunity while addressing delegates about the Opt For Life campaign, to endorse the black card.

Hill 16

Inexplicably, the Croke Park website still maintains that “in the aftermath of the (1916) Rising rubble from the bombed out buildings on O’Connell Street was brought to Croke Park to construct a viewing mound for spectators at the north end of the stadium. This mound became known as Hill 16.” In fact, it was originally known as Hill 60 after a Gallipoli battle in World War I. The terrace was erected in November 1915.

The Rock’s point

“Diarmuid O’Sullivan here, coming out like a tank. Lifting the crowd and he’s put it over the bar. What an amazing point from the full-back.”

That’s how Ger Canning called it and that’s how we saw the Cloyne man’s stunning score in the 2001 Munster quarter-final having delivered an unmerciful shoulder on Limerick substitute Jack Foley. The only problem was Limerick won the game and O’Sullivan’s marker, Brian Begley, scored three points off him that day.

The Rock’s shoulders

It remains another highlight in the montage reel devoted to O’Sullivan, that series of shoulders to Kilkenny forwards in the 2003 All-Ireland final. The defender loses his hurley but fields a JJ Delaney clearance with both hands and more than absorbs an Eddie Brennan hit, knocking Brennan to the ground.

He seeks out DJ Carey next but Carey holds his ground as does Henry Shefflin. He wins a free, for what we don’t know, before he invites the Cats Maximus Decimus Merilius-like to take him on again. The bull-like look on his face as he takes the free is iconic only Cork lost again on this occasion.

Croke Park crowd

Many had been led to believe that the GAA required a crowd of 30,000 in Croke Park to financially break even on the day but this school of thought was rubbished by the association’s stadium and commercial director Peter McKenna in Michael Moynihan’s GAAconomics.

“That’s an urban myth. It costs between €40,000 and €120,000 to open the stadium and we often open it at a loss. The break-even figure? For the smallest crowd, it would be €30,000 so 10,000 people paying €3 each, or €5,000 paying €6 each would do it.”

Louth’s crest

The most inconvenient of the lot, perhaps, as it forced Louth into changing their jersey. Around 2006 and on the recommendation of Croke Park, county boards changed their crests to ensure copyright. Louth chose to incorporate alongside their traditional St Brigid’s Cross, the bridge, which crosses the River Boyne and is now known as the Mary McAleese Bridge.

Only the bridge is predominantly in Meath (approximately 70%) and following a motion by Drogheda club O’Raghallaigh’s in 2009 the infrastructure was removed and the crest redesigned.

Canning interview

Between the 2012 All-Ireland hurling finals, Joe Canning gave an interview to the press at a sponsored event in which he said Henry Shefflin had shown “unsportsmanlike” behaviour in the drawn game and Kilkenny influenced the referee. His older brother Ollie said one or two of his comments were taken out of context and some of the reporting of the interview was “very poor GAA journalism”. However, the audio of the interview doesn’t suggest that was the case.

Canning was even given the opportunity by the sponsor’s PR company at journalists’ request to verify his remarks and said he was happy with what he said. The interview has since been held up as an example of the breakdown in trust between inter-county Gaelic players and the media.

Seánie’s shoulder

Okay, it was his collarbone that he dislocated but we couldn’t overlook the injury Clare’s Seánie McMahon picked up against Cork in the 1995 Munster final. It’s folklore now that Clare strapped up his right shoulder hoping that Limerick wouldn’t target his recovering left but TV footage at the time showed him to be clearly nursing his left as he exited the field following the semi-final in the Gaelic Grounds.

Recalling the attempted hoodwink with Kieran Shannon in this newspaper in 2013, McMahon said: “It was mentioned alright but I’m not sure if we wrapped either or both of them or what.”

Mayo’s Mill At The Hill

At the time, Mayo’s decision to warm-up on the Hill 16 half of Croke Park, ie Dublin’s side, prior to the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final was claimed to have been a heat of the moment decision. Even after the game and in the build-up to the final against Kerry, players like Alan Dillon were jokingly dismissing the significance of it.

However, Keith Duggan’s House of Pain: Through The Rooms of Mayo Football it had been discussed beforehand (some say the night before; others say in the dressing room).

It is also believed to have been done without the management’s knowledge, and agreed at the team photograph with David Brady acting as ringmaster.

Dublin were annoyed and some argy-bargy ensued, most noticeably between Dublin manager Paul Caffrey and Mayo coach John Morrison, but it soon settled down thereafter.

Socrates and Sigerson Cup

Yes, that old chestnut. The idea that the great Brazilian striker lined out for UCD’s reserves soccer team during the 1970s would be easier to believe than the suggestion he played for the college’s Sigerson Cup side, but that is the myth that has been propagated down through the years.

Socrates, who passed away in 2011, had never visited Dublin. Similarly false was Xabi Alonso’s Gaelic football prowess, although he did play it socially while studying English in Kells as a teenager.


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