JOHN FOGARTY: The Fogarty Forum: GAA can find future path from within

The IRFU’s accounts don’t look too pretty at the moment but if they’re looking for a quick buck, they might make a call to Croke Park.

We’re being flippant, of course, but in recent times GAA authorities have been gleaning plenty from the oval ball game and how it operates.

The sidelines have been cleaned up, gumshields come as standard for all inter-county footballers from January 1 next and Liam O’Neill wants county boards to appoint managers and coaches á la their rival sport.

Not only that, he would prefer to see all bar one of the management team assigned to the stands with just one player, be it a captain or whoever, given the authority to speak to the referee.

Then there is the black card, which can be compared to an extent with the sin bin in terms of addressing cynicism, and the extension of the advantage rule.

There is also a concerted if largely futile effort in Croke Park to get managers to name their teams earlier in the week similar to international rugby teams.

Thankfully, the GAA is not taking too many leafs out of rugby’s book. Their concussion protocol, as much as John Conlon’s recent case against Cork was a frightening one, is nowhere near as dubious.

Rugby’s culture of respect for referees most definitely provides a model but if the last two weekends of Championship action have shown anything, it’s that the GAA is its own entity with its own idiosyncrasies.

The Central Hearings Committee’s decision to quash the one-match suspension handed to Pat Horgan by the Central Competitions Control Committee didn’t undermine James McGrath’s decision but it certainly opened it to question.

How exactly Cork proved Horgan didn’t strike Paudie O’Brien’s helmet unintentionally is anyone’s guess but it will be interesting to see if McGrath is handed another assignment later in the Championship. Having taken charge of last year’s All-Ireland final replay, it’s likely McGrath will be in the shake-up for the semi-finals (Brian Gavin, Johnny Ryan and James Owens are viewed as the front runners for September).

Those appointments will be keenly viewed because right now there is a spotlight placed firmly on the GAA and its referees. Even if it was Joe McQuillan’s decision to move through the crowds with a Garda escort in Newbridge on Saturday evening, he never should have been put in such a position.

The inadequacy of St Conleth’s Park for a Championship fixture, never mind a league one, was once again underlined by that episode. Until such time as they move the referee’s changing room, no other inter-county game should be played there or anywhere match officials can be placed in such awkward and potentially dangerous situations.

The GAA can talk about developing a culture of respect for referees from an early age but right now they should be taking simple and common sense measures to ensure their safety.

Pitch invasions, on the other hand, are like prairie fires outside Croke Park. As stadium and commercial director Peter McKenna will testify, they can be dangerous but really, more often than not, they are unbridled episodes of euphoria.

Just as Limerick’s 17-year gap merited a bursting of emotion, so too did Monaghan’s 25-year wait for a 15th Ulster title. Who could stop them? Who would? In a way, it was the magic of this year’s hurling championship transferred to the football competition in Clones on Sunday.

Rugby, for all its pluses, rarely match those magnificent moments of collective elation. It definitely has structures the GAA can learn from but when Croke Park officials look at matters closer, they’ll realise it’s they who have the solutions to the problems they cause and the unique and beautiful ones they generate.

Those who triumph don’t deserve to be left in the dark

In case you didn’t know yesterday was the first Monday in six weeks where there hasn’t been a Championship draw of some kind.

The All-Ireland quarter-finals draw will be made on RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday but why couldn’t it already have taken place?

The GAA will argue there will be more potential opponents for each of the four Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster champions should the teams they beat in the provincial finals lose next Saturday.

Draws aren’t meant to be exciting — football is — but isn’t there enough pizzazz right now in the possibility of each of the quartet facing one of six teams?

So Kerry can’t face Galway as they face Cork or Mayo won’t play Cavan as they are meeting London. There are ample permutations notwithstanding those barriers.

Haven’t the provincial winners earned the right to know one of the two teams they’re facing now instead of possibly seven days out from their All-Ireland quarter-final?

Instead, each of their management teams will have to split themselves up between the two qualifier venues on Saturday to check on their possible opponents.

The provincial competitions are here to stay for the foreseeable future. As long as they are, those who triumph in them shouldn’t be left in the dark as long as those who have lost this summer.

Pre-game tweeting? Seriously?

We’ve a thing about players tweeting on match-day before throw-in. It might be generalising but it doesn’t exactly scream of focus.

Few GAA players do it but on Saturday and again on Sunday we spotted one on each day putting a message or two up on the social network.

Both of their teams lost but irrespective of that it just isn’t best practice to be making public utterances no matter how trivial so close to a game. Similar occurrences happened prior to one of last year’s league finals and on that occasion the player’s side were also defeated.

Boredom shouldn’t be an issue hours before throw-in but players are perfectly entitled to do as they wish.

However, the immediate build-up to a game is an appropriate time for private conclave. Isn’t it any wonder in other sports bans are put on tweets and Facebook messages 24 hours before and after a game?

Before matches anyway, they just send out the wrong message — about themselves and to their opponents.


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