MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Men on front line scratching heads

The sideline regulation controversy is not an obsession for this corner of the newspaper — not just yet anyway — but the matter continues to raise questions, despite Croke Park’s keenness to draw a line under the matter.

Consider some comments in the last couple of weeks on the matter.

Galway selector Tom Helebert, who spent the Tribesmen’s first league outing in the stand as a result of the new rules, said after his side had beaten Kilkenny: “This [new rule] doesn’t have a basis where we can figure out where it’s coming from. “Last year when we were competing in Croke Park and elsewhere, we understood the protocols and the rules that were in place and if you breached the rule you got fined.

“There was a good process there, it was an established process and we knew what suspensions were in place if a guy misbehaved on the sideline.”

Dublin manager Anthony Daly made similar noises after his side beat Offaly: “Sport is sport and sometimes there are accidents and stuff happens. It is just crazy. I don’t know who came up with the idea.”

And finally, Dr Tadhg Crowley, long-time medic for the Kilkenny hurlers, chipped in: “I’d love to know where they’re coming from because I think it’s bad medicine.”

Stepping back from the rights and wrongs of the issue — like those stepping back from the whitewash along the sideline, ho ho — there’s a deeper issue here than the numbers allowed pitch side.

When Cats selector Martin Fogarty kickstarted the debate with his statement to this newspaper he referred in passing to the lack of consultation on the new regulations.

While this was dismissed by Croke Park, it’s surely no accident that other managers are scratching their heads as to the origins of the new laws.

Presumably those quoted above didn’t agree a three-line whip before the opening weekend of the league, which suggests that the way the regulations have been imposed still rankles.

It’s a matter for each county to liaise with its Central Council delegates about the issues which are put before them but involving those likely to be directly affected by such a rule change as this one seems a matter of common sense. Croke Park made the valid point last week to this column that consultation doesn’t constitute a veto, which was a fair point, but such consultations should lead to a decision, not necessarily a conclusion.

On a parallel point, Tom Helebert’s reference to the old regime brings up another hoary GAA chestnut: the need to prosecute versus the desire to legislate. All too often the answer to problems within the association lie in the existing rules — or to be more precise, in putting those rules into effect.

Helebert was right in his point about the regulations which existed last year. If those were enforced then we might not have this nonsense dribbling on and on, but there’s always been an a la carte approach to certain rules within the GAA and this is an obvious example of that.

Observant readers will have noticed, by the way, that we have refrained from beating the hurling-versus-football drum until now. It’s not an example of a new-found tolerance on our part, don’t worry: it’s just an expression of our confidence that we’ll be returning to this issue at a later date, and that we’ll have ample time to consider that element of the argument when the issue rears its head again.

Fellas playing both sides of the divide

Last Sunday night you had your choice of put-your-feet-up television. On many channels, the Academy Awards show was the centrepiece, and host Seth McFarlane’s comic turn at the start has spawned a good few headlines since then.

McFarlane’s string of off-colour comments has attracted quite the backlash. During the week Colette Browne’s column in these pages indicted him on a succession of charges of crass sexism and insensitivity, though she might have made more of the capital offence: not being nearly as good as Billy Crystal in his ‘it’s a wonderful night for Oscar’ pomp.

You can argue the toss about humour being a matter of personal taste — there are people who find Will Ferrell hilarious, inexplicably — and you could make a case that making jokes about people in movies is making jokes about people who are playing at make-believe in the first place. There’s little doubt, though, that McFarlane’s comment about nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis in particular went over the line of acceptability. Grown actors and adult singers can fight their own corner, but a child?

The Oscars wasn’t the only game in town on Sunday night, though. There was an excellent documentary on RTÉ about rugby player Tommy Bowe which proved a ratings smash.

Why? It could be something to do with the scene of the bould Tommy sitting in front of a table laden down with 5,000 calories — his daily intake when training; it might have succeeded because of Bowe’s laid-back charm; or maybe it was the documentary’s fairytale narrative arc — return to try-scoring form with Ireland and then the disaster of serious injury with Ulster.

Or it could be that this documentary took off like a rocket at least in part because Tommy had his shirt off for large portions of it, and unlike almost every man you know, the man from Monaghan is on speaking terms with his abdominal muscles.

This semi-nudity provoked comments such as these on Twitter: “Safe to say all the women out there watching the Tommy Bowe documentary have no interest in the science aspect of this!”; “#50shadesoftommy another baby boom expected in 9months #tommybowe” and “We’d give him one...”

Hold your horses, angry feminists.

We’re not warming up for a sauce-for-the-goose argument. You can’t compare queasy asides about nine-year-old children with the rough and tumble banter about a sports professional, and in a career at the sharp end of a savage contact sport Tommy Bowe has faced tougher opponents than the twitterati.

The coincidence of the two television events was what caught our fancy here, not the intrigue of sexual politics. For instance, of the three tweets we cited, the first two came from men; does that make the content of those tweets more sexist or less? We’ll knock off the Betty Friedan impressions now. Normal service to be resumed forthwith.

Ladies grab the limelight

Before we abandon the barricades, or trenches, or whatever theatre of war the battle of the sexes is being waged in, a point about equality of gender that can be welcomed by everybody.

Devotees of ESPN’s stellar line-up of documentaries, Thirty for Thirty, have spared nobody in their eulogies to superb programmes such as those devoted to Michael Jordan’s efforts to make it in baseball, or the life and times of super-gambler Nick The Greek, but there was always one obvious gap in the line-up.

Where were all the women? That’s going to change as the US sports channel is to air a new series of sports documentaries, starting in July. The twist this time is the focus on women in sport: Nine for IX.

Subject matter? According to the ESPN website: “Topics include an intimate look at Pat Summitt, college sports’ most successful coach ever, Katarina Witt and her link with East Germany’s secret police, and the focus on sex in marketing female athletes.”

If the quality is as high as Thirty for Thirty, you won’t want to miss it (more information here — http://exa.mn/gy).

Sheedy’s fervour infectious

I don’t know what it was like where you were yesterday, but it was a beautiful expression of spring in Ennis, where your columnist was watching the M. Donnelly Interprovincial final between Munster and Connacht.

At least, I was watching the game when not keeping an eye on Liam Sheedy. It’s a hardy annual at this time of the year, the old ‘what will we do with the interprovincial series?’, but if the GAA could hook Sheedy up to a generator they’d have no problem with the competition.

It was refreshing to see the man’s unadorned enthusiasm for the game. There were more Connacht supporters than Munster in the covered stand, and maybe they were looking for a pantomime villain, but they clearly enjoyed Sheedy as well: he hit every ball with his team, roaring them on and massaging – metaphorically – the officials as he passed them on the sideline.

A missed chance had him complaining, vocally, which is one advantage of having a small crowd, and a questionable decision had him lifting his arms in supplication.

Connacht-Galway boss Anthony Cunningham was pretty vocal too – he took the time to have a quiet word with the referee at half-time – and was morose at the final whistle, having tasted defeat. Never mind marketing these games with players; just roll out the managers and you’ll see how much it means.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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