Who should make the walk of atonement?

So why is Jim Gavin being all unreasonable? You might recall recently that charges of criminal blasphemy were dropped against actor and comedian Stephen Fry.

It seems a man from made a complaint after comments Fry made during an interview with Gay Byrne in the Meaning of Life programme.

Though not himself offended by the comments, the complainant who wished to remain anonymous, felt he was doing his civic duty, as God had been described by the Englishman as capricious, mean-minded and stupid for allowing so much suffering in the world.

Possibly to no one’s surprise the investigation was terminated as gardaí were unable to find “sufficient numbers of outraged people”.

In contrast, the 12-week suspension of Diarmuid Connolly has engaged and enraged enough people from Kerry to Derry to such an extent that it would seem a full blown Game of Thrones walk of atonement is required.

One obviously outraged person was Dublin manager Jim Gavin. His alleged refusal to make himself and his players available for television and radio interviews after their Leinster semi-final victory over Westmeath reignited a furore that had long since been put to bed.

If Connolly had been shown a red card by Seán Hurson on the night in question against Carlow, no one could have argued, but once that didn’t happen it is hard to see how the CCCC, under its current rules, could have justified a retrospective suspension.

Connolly spared them the necessity and we moved on, or so we thought.

It is not my wish to revisit the rights and wrongs of this debate. I am more interested in exploring why someone like Gavin, in his fourth year as manager and a man who seems to be able to remain ice cool in the most stressful and competitive of environments, suddenly appears to be so unreasonable in a situation where his player was so obviously wrong.

It has been interpreted in many quarters as Gavin using Connolly’s suspension to generate a siege mentality among the Dublin players in order to give them an edge as they continue their quest for three in a row. I don’t agree. Gavin hasn’t needed such ‘stunts’ in the past to be successful so why start now?

When Cork played Kerry in the 2015 Munster football final replay on a Saturday night in Killarney, Cork defender Michael Shields was booked by referee Maurice Deegan for diving near the touchline under the covered stand.

The St Finbarr’s man had been buffeted by Kerry forward Paul Geaney after play had been stopped and he fell theatrically to the floor in an attempt to get the Kerry man booked.

Deegan didn’t bite and Shields was deservedly cautioned.

There was no argument from me or any member of the Cork management at the time. For that matter there was no argument from Mike either. You win some and lose some, as Aidan O’Mahony might say to Donnacha O’Connor.

Though it was a Saturday replay, it wasn’t really until Sunday night

that I felt a real sense of injustice about something, in essence, I had no argument with. The source of my ire was what I perceived to be the unbalanced coverage of the incident by RTÉ.

Context is necessary here. In the drawn match in Killarney two weeks previous, in the early minutes of the game James O’Donoghue was swarmed and tackled by two to three Cork players near the sideline under the covered stand at the town end.

He was cornered to the sideline and was in danger of being turned over so he threw himself to the ground holding his head in an attempt to earn a free. Having tried something similar a couple of times myself, I am not going to lecture or admonish the Legion man.

O’Donoghue was stripped of the ball and Pádraig Hughes correctly waved play on.

The incident was picked up by Joe Brolly during the half- time panel exchanges where he appealed to O’Donoghue not to diminish the storied history of the jersey he now donned nor the great players who had worn it in the past.

Brolly didn’t put a tooth in it and construed O’Donoghue’s fall to the floor to be a blatant dive.

Critically though, despite Brolly’s lead in, the point was not developed or explored by presenter Michael Lyster during the live broadcast. No big deal.

However, in contrast during the live screening of the replay, the Shields ‘dive’ was parsed and analysed, replayed and slow-mo’d to death during the half-time panel’s contribution.

If that wasn’t enough during The Sunday Game highlights coverage on the following night the Shields dive and the issue of feigning injury was discussed again in some detail.

Now I generally try not to do paranoia so I will state confidently that I don’t believe there was any overt agenda in the disparate treatment of both dives. But it is a very legitimate question to ask why a dive in one match was worthy of detailed inspection and comment and a dive in the previous one worthy of none at all? Same teams, same venue, same audience but very different outcomes.

I obviously cannot offer an answer to this question. Only the RTÉ team on duty for those games can but it does highlight how players and managers can perceive, whether true or not, that there is an agenda in how their team is portrayed.

And so I can only surmise that Gavin’s principled stand on what appears a ‘guilty as sin case’ is not an attempt to rally the troops but is the result of his perception that his team, his players and Connolly in particular are not receiving a fair and balanced representation in the media.

How a particular incident is analysed should not be dependent on the mood of the commentator, the interest of the presenter, or the whim of analyst.

Nor can it be contingent on the level of public outrage, a slow news day and nothing else worthwhile to discuss. This lack of consistency in how incidents are handled leads to this type of reaction.

Because Jim Gavin knows throughout the rest of this championship we will see players, including his own, diving, referees on the receiving end of barrages of abuse from irate players or alternatively ‘physical contact’ in the form of ‘friendly’ pats on the back or arms around the shoulder.

All are attempts by players in various guises to influence the decision-making of the man in the middle but will generally be disregarded.

We can talk all we like about grey areas and life not being black and white but a dive is a dive, verbal abuse is verbal abuse and blasphemy is blasphemy. It either is or it isn’t.

Otherwise, it is only when a man from Clare makes a complaint and is lucky enough to have a sufficiently large enough number of outraged people in his corner that any particular issue will merit discussion.

It shouldn’t depend on this or the number of hits, tweets, or likes.

On that basis Gavin has much to be unreasonable about.

As to who should make the walk of atonement?

Well, you decide.


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