Yeah, his player did wrong but no, he wasn’t as wrong as the pundits who criticised him. Yeah, his player wanted to serve his suspension but no, he didn’t want him to. Yeah, the ban was handed down but no, the Disputes Resolution Authority would have overruled it had Connolly pursued it. All that was missing was the “so there”.
The Vicky Pollard approach is favoured by a lot of managers who are on the side of wrong but find reason to be indignant and perhaps to distract from that very truth. For example, Éamonn Fitzmaurice appeared more exercised by the leak of Brendan O’Sullivan’s failed doping test and the revelation Kerry are fuelled by a host of supplements than the fact his player took something he shouldn’t have.
Managers have every right to defend their players in public but what some are doing these days smacks of protesting too much. Fitzmaurice responded to Una May’s comments carried in this newspaper when it was unnecessary. Likewise, Gavin has only succeeded in dragging on a matter that should only reopen when Dublin secretary John Costello makes his views known in his end-of-year report.
The more the Connolly case lingers, the better he will look for taking his medicine. He’s no John Mullane 2004 but he’s spared the GAA a lot of hassle. The same, however, cannot be said for his manager who wanted Connolly to contest the penalty on the basis of, well, we have as much idea on that score as Gavin did when asked by Dublin supporters why Connolly was served a 12-week ban.
Yeah, as evidence goes, it was an open and shut case – Connolly pushed linesman Ciarán Branagan – but no, that didn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference to Gavin. Yeah, had he questioned why the matter wasn’t dealt with instantaneously by the match officials then his argument would have been far more reasoned but no, similar to the approach taken by some of the Dublin camp in the immediate aftermath of the game, the most pressing issue for him was how Connolly’s push was relayed. At the time, Sky Sports’ replaying of it was noted with dismay and there were also queries about how RTÉ were going to feature it. The picture was damning but the frame, Dublin felt, may have saved it.
Pat Spillane has been pinpointed as “the judge, jury and executioner” who denied Connolly a fair shout. But that view neglects to consider the pair of eyes each of the Central Competition Control Committee (CCCC) members possess never mind the ref’s report. The Sunday Game was late to the party on this one, by over 24 hours.
The CCCC would also have had to been living under a large rock not to notice the uproar caused by Connolly’s action. The furore on social media precedes and now challenges the authority of The Sunday Game in such circumstances. It seems like decades ago when it was unfavourably dubbed CSI Sunday Game in Kerry. The programme might like to think it feeds social media discourse when in fact it finds more nourishment in social media.
Gavin’s shot at Spillane can easily be perceived as another reminder of the growing animosity between Dublin and Kerry where neither group can tell the difference between opposing current and former players and managers. He clearly has a bee in his bonnet about the influence of Kerry pundits. Two years ago, he said of Darragh Ó Sé comments about Connolly having a tail that could be pulled: “When I hear Kerry talking about Dublin football or other counties, I take it with a large pinch of salt.”
Spillane said the matter was a “black and white” incident. Gavin can’t contest that. Neither can Joe Brolly who remarked Spillane was acting like a prosecutor against Connolly when he himself has done so in the past. Brolly’s sidekick on Sunday, Dessie Dolan, was more precise in stating Spillane hails from Kerry but then mentioning the obvious is what Dolan does best.
Dolan, like Brolly, made the contentious claim Spillane was batting for his native county in condemning Connolly. Last month, Spillane explained he has never socially met the vast majority of the Kerry panel apart from his fellow Templenoe club-mates. Fitzmaurice, he claims to have only encountered once. Because of his strident views, Spillane lost a friendship with Denis “Ogie” Moran. He’s been no fan of Kerry’s football in recent times either. To question his integrity is wide of the mark.
But for The Sunday Game, the focus would have remained on Gavin where it should be fixed. Yeah, maybe just maybe RTÉ wanted to get back into Dublin’s good books but no, Gavin’s feeble admission Connolly did wrong was the story of the day. It’s not enough Connolly accepted the ban: Dublin refused to do so possibly on a point of perception, not principle, which we are so often told and can regularly agree this Dublin team is built on. But then situations like this can make us so quickly forget, and it turns out Gavin isn’t conflicted; he knows exactly what he is doing; we are. Yeah but, no but...
Cork must look to old stagers for success
Even if some supporters are keeping their money for Thurles on Sunday week and the event junkies’ need for a Killarney fix isn’t as strong as it might have been, Cork can’t be short of inspiration this weekend.
The hurlers have given them so much of it with their recent couple of performances and then to see a team as rubbished as Down overwhelm Monaghan must also give them a jolt.
Everywhere there is motivation and then there’s the blatantly obvious fact that they are fancied to fall flat on their faces.
Not since Mick O’Dwyer’s time in charge has a Kerry team been so heavily expected to come out on top. Indeed, a home win would stretch Kerry’s unbeaten run over Cork in Munster to five games, a period of dominance not seen since the county’s golden years.
Unlike their hurlers or Down, who can both turn on the charm at the drop of a hat, Cork can’t rely on class to see them pull off a surprise. It will come down to character and it’s no surprise then that a stalwart like Eoin Cadogan, even though he is lacking match fitness, is tipped to start.
Most of Cork’s best performers this summer have been their seasoned campaigners. Alan O’Connor, back from suspension and so able on these occasions, simply must be there for the first throw-in. Mark Collins has been Cork’s most consistent performer these last few years and his ingenuity showed against Tipp, even if he surprisingly can’t hold down a spot.
And if Cork don’t think Kerry have a plan for impact substitute Donncha O’Connor’s arrival they are foolish. Is there an argument for going in with the old and finishing out with the new?
Will Dubs landslide be another catalyst for change?
Dublin’s 27-point win over Longford in their 2015 Leinster quarter-final was a touchstone game for the GAA. It has been referenced on a number of occasions by director general Páraic Duffy, most recently in January of this year when he acknowledged it as the catalyst to change the All-Ireland senior football championship.
“This goes back to just after Congress last year,” he said at the time, “and probably the Dublin/Longford Leinster championship match when Longford were well beaten and it created an immediate reaction to the championship (that) ‘we need to look at it’ and one-sided games.”
Dublin increased that staggering margin by four on Sunday, admittedly against a Westmeath team that had only a week to prepare.
Nevertheless, one that had won a game.
Nothing in the next year’s new championship model will cut the number of lopsided events like this.
Worse still, Westmeath aren’t among the Leinster counties who will benefit from the extra funding made available to help them become more competitive against Dublin.
The provincial championships have offered some good quality games this summer but the Leinster SFC shows little sign of improving.
Unless the council are empowered to change the structure – possibly give all but Dublin a running start in a round-robin series before semi-finals – its slow slide into irrelevance will continue unabated.