The few weeks leading up to an All-Ireland football final tends to provide the ideal conditions for conspiracy theorists to flourish.
The past week was a perfect illustration of the type of hysteria that can quickly develop when social media find a cause to be outraged about.
Without going over old ground here, the whole thing blew up because of comments made by former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice on the Irish Examiner GAA podcast.
In a nutshell, Éamonn expressed concerns at the potential appointment of David Gough as All-Ireland final referee.
It was an opinion I didn’t feel was outrageous by any means.
Aidan O’Mahony highlighted similar thinking in a piece he did with the Paddy Power website around the same time.
The narrative quickly exploded through various social channels — along with some more reputable outlets — that this was a concerted campaign to either influence the decision to appoint the referee or perhaps to pressurise him into giving the underdog more of the 50-50 calls down the stretch.
The ‘Kerry media mafia’ were in full flow by all accounts, trying to dictate the rules of engagement through print, radio, and podcasts towards creating an advantage for their beloved Kingdom.
Ciarán Whelan wrote a piece last week: “A few former Kerry footballers laced up the boots one more time and pulled on the famous green and gold jersey to answer their county’s call when expressing the opinion that they felt Meath referee David Gough should not be the man with the whistle on Sunday September 1.”
There were plenty of others through various outlets who added their dubious weight to the vague notion that those with a Kerry passport and any kind of a media platform were being mobilised like the Avengers to carry out a coordinated and covert act aimed at affecting the eventual outcome of the All-Ireland football final.
All the while, the hysterical social media brigade rush to such polarised highs and lows like a dog chasing every passing car.
It’s quite funny really; firstly that people might actually think there is some level of coordination between former players of a county to develop some kind of a narrative, and secondly, that people may believe that whatever somebody writes in a newspaper or says in the media can in any way affect what is going to happen once the ball is thrown up between David Moran and Brian Fenton in less than a fortnight.
Perhaps this will be the first year, that a good columnist or controversial TV pundit kicks a score or makes a saving tackle, but somehow I doubt it.
Every once in a while, people are capable of independent thought, even former footballers who sit down to give their opinion on whatever is the pressing issue of the day.
Some of them even put a bit of thought into what they say to try and make it as relevant and interesting as possible.
Punditry by its very nature is a false game.
It’s why I’d have such huge admiration for what Liam Sheedy is after doing with Tipperary.
He left his comfortable seat and pay cheque from the Sunday Game and backed himself to get back on the sideline and get his hands dirty again.
It’s great to see somebody like that pushing all their chips into the centre of the table and having the courage of their convictions.
I saw Derek McGrath was asked recently about the vacant Waterford job and he genuinely seemed to be torn about whether he would pursue a return to the county scene so soon again.
You can tell by him, that he’d be happier getting soaked wet on a training pitch in January rather than telling Brian Cody where he went wrong on Sunday night.
The thing I always look for in the people who give their opinions on our games is the level of honesty and integrity they bring to it, and I fully appreciate that is difficult to assess accurately.
We have some who flip-flop their views for clicks depending on which way the wind is blowing, but being a Monday morning quarterback is the easiest and smuggest position anybody can play.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the right answer to a question that was asked the day before.
It was put to Fitzmaurice last week and he gave his honest personal opinion about what he felt about the referee.
Perhaps he would have been better to just give the usual bland response, but he went the other way on it.
There should be no ambiguity around the fact that a couple of people’s opinions, no matter how influential they may be perceived to be, is not a ‘campaign’ representative of a county or team.
No more than the character who made a splash by putting it out there online that there was a protest being organised against David Gough to coincide with the Kerry team open day in Fitzgerald Stadium last weekend.
It was sent to me a few times, again, the idea being pedalled that this was a huge deal and representative of the views of the Kerry supporter in general.
There was going to be a huge turn out to voice their collective disappointment by taking over the streets of Killarney for the day.
Total fake news as The Donald would say.
Apparently, there was one person — singular — standing on his own behind a home-made ‘Gough Out’ sign outside the stadium last Saturday and a few of the Kerry players told him on their way in to go away and stop embarrassing himself.
It was the closest thing to the Father Ted ‘down with that sort of thing’ scene you’re likely to see.
The point is, there was a huge difference between the mountain portrayed online and the molehill in reality.
One person’s views do not speak of an entire county.
The same was true back in 2016 when some of the Dublin media members highlighted the off the ball treatment their players were likely to receive from the Mayo backs and particularly how Lee Keegan was likely to manhandle Diarmuid Connolly.
I don’t remember it being branded as some coordinated plot at the time to influence the officials and I’m sure it wasn’t.
The only people who can truly influence the outcome of the All-Ireland final will all run out from under the Hogan Stand in two weeks’ time — the rest of us are only guessing and hoping.
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