JOHN FOGARTY: GAA keeping managers on tight leash

Brian Cody

During the summer, a highly-regarded team official from a Munster county approached this column with a query.

He wanted to know how Davy Fitzgerald managed to get away with it so often. How could he make so many negative remarks about referees and not be reprimanded.

If he had waited long enough, he’d have read Brian Cody’s “criminal” comments about Barry Kelly and realised it takes a hell of a lot for an inter-county manager to be punished for an errant tongue.

That may no longer be the case if the Central Competition Controls Committee (CCCC) use their new powers and ban team officials from sidelines for derogatory remarks about referees before or after matches.

The Cody regulation, as it shall be forthwith be known, mightn’t have been dubbed as such or looked so reactionary if the CCCC had taken the counsel of GAA director general Páraic Duffy earlier this year.

It was in his annual report last January that he suggested a withdrawal of sideline privileges would be a more appropriate form of penalty for questioning the authority of a referee.

It was also in the same document that he called for county panels to be named prior to games and be refused the opportunity to make changes on match-day. That idea will now take the form of a motion next February.

If these two pieces of news are indications that more of Duffy’s concepts will be put into force then the portents are promising for the GAA. The Monaghan man’s leadership of the organisation has been extremely healthy, yet, like Liam Mulvihill, he has been left frustrated at times. By the way, it is expected Duffy will remain in his position for at least another two years after his current seven-year contract expires in February.

But will his words be put into effect? Managers are notoriously slippery creatures. Exactly why has Fitzgerald avoided the long arm of Croke Park? Because his criticism of officials is opaque. Go back to last September when he questioned Brian Gavin without referring to him. “We’re only the small, little fish out there and we’re trying hard to make it through. But how do you get the breaks when you’re a small fish?”

Then James McGrath following this year’s Munster semi-final defeat to Cork: “I think there were other factors, which I won’t go into, but Cork were faster and better than us today but I don’t know it was lack of discipline at times.”

Then Johnny Ryan after Clare’s qualifier exit to Wexford: “It’s important to win graciously (sic), it’s very important to f****** do this but If I could tell you how I really feel in the pit of my stomach it just wouldn’t be good to print.”

On each occasion, it was obvious how Fitzgerald felt about the referee in question but he didn’t overstep the line so as to question their integrity or authority. The point is if managers want to be critical of officials they will be. They’ll just find different, cuter ways of venting their anger. Likewise, those managers who wish to name dummy teams will continue to do so. Just because they can’t make any additions to the panel beyond nine o’clock on a Thursday morning doesn’t mean they won’t fill their starting sides with players wearing 20-something on their jerseys.

The measure is a reaction against the likes of Mickey Harte who have been partial to drafting in players donning 29, 30 and 31 on their backs prior to throw-in. But if the GAA really wanted to hit managers they should have addressed the issue of dummy teams, not dummy squads. That subversive practice won’t be stopped by this motion. Managers have a knack of getting their way — look at how they’ve made a mockery of the sideline regulations this year. A new match regulation and motion to keep them in check are leashes, but it’s how they are held that will count.


Galvin’s words ooze quality — but not insight

Buy Paul Galvin’s book if you want originality. He’s the first inter-county player since Liam Hayes to write a tome without a ghost-writer. No mean feat, that.

Buy it for high-quality writing. If you ever have received a text message from Galvin, you will appreciate the man has a great command for expression and syntax.

Buy it if you want to know what it takes to maximise your talents.

Buy it for guidance. “I have learned that in sport you shouldn’t be desperate for success but desperate for the work that inevitably brings success. There’s a difference. In the end, I had to go because I was desperate for success but couldn’t commit to the work that it takes to bring it.”

But if you’re looking for more, you might think twice about parting with your €17. Galvin is one of the most intriguing characters in Gaelic games but you’re not going to get anything he doesn’t want to give you.

“This is my story, these are my words, this is what I think. You are free to take these words any way you want, they’ll still be mine after you’re done with them.”

The pity is there’s a lot more to him. As a boy, he tells he was motivated by a slight. As a man, he was the same, keeping a black book of all those who had done wrong by him. There’s no mention of that in his autobiography nor his thought-provoking views on the game of football nor the rigorous mental preparations he put in before games.

“It’s a book with strong writing,” he said. “That was the overall aim for me.”

That’s very true but it only goes so far. It’s insight people really want.

It’s all about Rory as new era dawns in Donegal

Logic mightn’t have prevailed when Donegal decided to postpone their club championship until the county team exited the All-Ireland Championship but it has at least returned with their appointment of Rory Gallagher as Jim McGuinness’s replacement.

It simply made sense: Gallagher is highly regarded by the players, who have come to know and respect a most professional way of doing things he helped infuse.

It’s as natural a succession as there can be between two friends whose relationship appears to have cooled.

Part of why that happened was Gallagher’s loose lips prior to last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final.

McGuinness had no hand or part in defending his assistant manager as he was attacked for his wild accusation that Mayo and Monaghan were in collusion.

As an inter-county manager, Gallagher will have learned he has to measure his words but he’ll be just as determined to prove he’s his own man now.

At Donegal’s All-Ireland final press day, when Gallagher’s name was mentioned, McGuinness replied that it was a story for another day.

Perhaps McGuinness had hoped to speak about his former colleague after a second All-Ireland final victory.

The only story now to be told will be Gallagher’s.


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