Game that fought the law

Hendrix opening for The Monkees in ‘67.

Game that fought the law

Is that the nearest parallel to this weekend’s head-over-heels Croker bill of fare?

The country is enthralled, beguiled, repulsed and invigorated with Mayo and Dublin’s resumption later on.

The country just about cops there’s another match on tomorrow.

How wrong I was 30 months ago, how gauche my misreading. Back in March 2013, having noted moves at GAA Congress to introduce the black card to Gaelic football, I foresaw many unintended knock-on consequences.

In introducing a clear incentive for men to fall down, there was nothing surer than men would oblige and fall down. So I called the diving, the aggravation, the confusion and the controversy.

I may have underestimated the scale of confusion and controversy, but that was barely the beginning of my fundamental wrongness in this matter.

In my bizarre innocence, in my blithe disregard of all known precedent, I somehow regarded the inevitable injection of more diving, aggravation, confusion and controversy into Gaelic football as a bad thing.

An unforgivable misstep, when we had all seen our old friend “controvassy” become the most effective sales pitch at the Premier League’s disposal. An asset they never stop sweating.

And sure enough, the Gaelic has also gone from strength to strength armed with these advantages.

In my defence, even luminaries of Gaelic football analysis such as Colm O’Rourke have been taken aback by this dynamic, Colm admitting earlier this summer his bafflement that the miserable standard of football was not acting as a deterrent to the droves of punters flooding through the gates.

There may be a central misunderstanding here, on behalf of myself and Colm, a mistaken belief that punters were ever going to Gaelic football matches for the spectacle. In fact, whatever they were going for, the chances are they are getting more of it now.

Advantageously, the natural momentum gained from this fresh supply of confusion and controversy has been accelerated by the age-old GAA attitude to indiscretion and punishment: Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time pursuing every spurious route of appeal.

Upshot: No football has been as lawless since Gino was in his pomp.

Consequently, matchdays are decorated with various new intrigues. Every tackle has become a cliffhanger. Every decision the recap sequence that launches a soap opera. No shortage of actors either.

Once, we might have watched, for example, Aidan O’Shea heave Stephen Cluxton to the ground and simply tut-tutted about the pulling and dragging and got on with our day. Now we get to scour the black card rules, scratch our heads and enjoy the buzz of lottery.

The intoxicating spectacle of referees juggling consistency and common sense like chainsaws.

And when frustrations spill over and one man boxes another into the head, we not only get to enjoy watching one man box another into the head, we trigger a courtroom drama that grips the news cycles, at the end of which we may find there was no evidence to suggest anyone was boxed into the head. Or any law against boxing into the head. It can only be weeks before UFC throws its hands up in surrender. It has nothing on this.

All week, men have struggled for metaphors to capture the entertainment now on offer.

Keith Duggan likened referee Joe McQuillan’s task last Sunday to a zookeeper’s, arriving at work to find all the cages open. Darragh O’Se suggested overlooking the odd technical offence was like “missing a pickpocket in the middle of a full-scale riot.” There was no suggestion anymore that this complete collapse in law and order should be misinterpreted as a bad thing.

With all of this available again this afternoon, tomorrow’s afterthought is asked to compete on the bare bones of honest competition and breathtaking skill.

To labour the Premier League comparison, hurling may have entered the becalmed 1999-2001 period, when the tyrannical force had seen off their bitterest rivals and nobody paid that much attention while they swelled their tally of glories at their ease. The ABU thing had lost some momentum. Even “controvassy” took a year or two off.

As PM O’Sullivan pointed out this week, that sense of calm may be a worry to Cody, in an arena where forces more elemental such as The Savage Hunger play a more pivotal role than in the Premier League.

Cody wondered aloud last week if supporters were sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of defeat to Galway. And it was instructive to watch some of his brethern respond instinctively to those prompts. First, Eddie O’Connor lashed Waterford for destroying the championship, then Andy Comerford sneered at Tipp’s lack of backbone.

Nothing to be pinned up in Galway dressing rooms, just wild pulls to generate any kind of heat in Kilkenny’s direction. The stir of negative energy.

To complete the tour of wrongness, we should revisit the Saturday, three years ago, when I predicted that Galway would beat Kilkenny on the basis that Dallas was back on television and Galway did most of their best hurling when Dallas was on first time round.

Aside from the obvious omens, there was a sense, maybe, that Kilkenny might have fattened a touch on the semi-final feast on the carcass of their bitter foes.

Maybe they had, a touch, since that final took two days to settle.

This time, Cody has flagged any torpor in advance. And a Cody forewarned...

New Dallas has long been cancelled. The great dynasty should prevail again.

Heroes & Villains


Ciaran Whelan:

A medically expert dismissal of any accusations of bias this week: “We all have blood flowing through us.”

Robbie Savage:

It may eventually come to be regarded as the definitive conundrum that undermines all discourse: “Sometimes, words are hard to describe.”

Saido Berahino:

The man who saved Deadline Day. Mind you, back in the glory days, we could look into the desperate eyes of Peter Odemwingie and see the scale of mankind’s ambition when it comes to the prospect of £100,000 per week. Now, all we have is Twitter. A sign of the times, but at least it’s something.


Jim Whyte:

For all of the upheaval caused by the chaps roaring bad things and waving dildos on Deadline Day, none of them produced as provocative and off-putting a spectacle as Jim’s tie-draping pose over poor Kate Abdo.

Judge Richard Berman:

Might his overturning of Tom Brady’s Deflategate punishment offer an intoxicating taste of the CCCC/CHC/DRA magic to NFL miscreants?

Alex Ferguson:

The yearly book is nearly upon us. Truly redefines The Savage Hunger.

The Egg Cup:

Nearly upon us and the unmistakeable whiff is everywhere.

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Saturday, February 27, 2021

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