LARRY RYAN: Mayo play a whole new blame game

After their speedy acceptance that the concussed Lee Keegan should have been substituted earlier in last Sunday’s defeat by Cork, the Mayo Gaelic football set-up has been widely praised for a constructive contribution to the player welfare ‘conversation’.

This is to badly short-change them, of course. 

Because this one is much bigger than welfare or concussion. Or health and safety. Or even GAA.

The Mayo Gaelic football set-up should be praised for a first known acceptance of culpability, on any matter, by anybody, in the history of the state.

In the heady moments after this unprecedented email dispatch from a county board landed, people gathered around to gape and marvel at the digital spectacle of men holding their hands up and acknowledging that, yes, they got it wrong this time.

All of a sudden, in the shaft of light thrown by this mea culpa, almost anything seemed achievable, even the prospect, some day, of being able to suspend a Gaelic footballer for throwing a box without briefing a team of legal eagles.

Alas, Mayo’s timing, though impeccably swift at the micro level, was unfortunate in the greater scheme of things, overshadowed, as it immediately became, by the farrago of cynicism and denial that is a general election campaign.

And we instinctively knew this could never catch on.

Still, we will always have Sunday, January 31.

Incidentally, by way of further landmark, the Keegan situation was described as a ‘concussion controvassy’ this week by Second Captains’ Eoin McDevitt, thought to be the first known import of controvassy by a domestic broadcaster.

This came hot on the heels of Kevin McStay’s description of Mayo as a ‘top, top’ team and Setanta’s Dave McIntyre’s provocative insistence, last Saturday evening, that Dublin were generating much “go-forward ball”.

Presumably, stiff fines await all three for the import of foreign game lingo into GAA discourse.

The Tipp-Cork battle for hearts and minds

Since the league is only the league, the psychological warfare has already begun ahead of the big one: Cork v Tipp on May 22.

While his predecessor Eamon O’Shea concentrated on more esoteric matters such as living in the moment and process over outcome, Michael Ryan has quickly set his stall out to reinvigorate the central agitation at the heart of Tippness, the idea that they are all agin us.

It is a complex condition Tippness. Begrudgers, and there are many, put it down to a cocktail of arrogance and paranoia, but we are a more sensitive people than that.

In essence, there is, certainly, a conviction that our blessed enclave is, by and large, a Shangri-La landlocked by envious neighbours casting ill-will over their hedges.

And yet, there is endemic frustration too, an acceptance our enemies have succeeded in stymying us, that we haven’t prospered as our birthright promised.

This agitation can often dissolve into the listless torpor of ‘Ah shure, it’s grand’; and at our lowest ebbs, it turns us on ourselves in a whirl of recrimination and bloodletting. But it has also powered many of our politicians, in a storm of umbrage and entitlement, onto the national stage.

And, all tactics aside, proper harnessing of Tippness may yet prove the best means of getting a man to win his own ball.

But Cork have countered swiftly. This commemorative blue jersey is undoubtedly some class of separation therapy to stir a primitive attachment to the blood and bandage.

But more interestingly, Diarmuid O’Sullivan tells us he is now teaching them “the dark arts”.

On the face of it, this is pure Corkness, putting the idea out there that they lack a bit of cuteness, in the dark arts, while honing those arts.

But then it isn’t Corkness at all to let us know what they are at. They have confused us on this one. An early advantage.

Neville can overcome death of certainty

The GAA must also be praised for its decisive action in fining a Longford club €2,000 for exposing its youngsters to a Jamie Carragher soccer camp on its grounds.

The Central Hearings Committee were obliged to move quickly, having seen the fruits of a full-time camp run by Carra’s old colleague at the Mestalla Stadium. Presumably, the fine for hosting a Gary Neville camp is at least €10k.

Amid the welter of schadenfreude that followed the 7-0 defeat for the Neviller’s Valencia at the hands of Barcelona this week, the argument has been widely advanced that Neville may never again command the same credibility as a pundit.

It is a view that places men like Savage, Merse and co on a high pedestal.

And yet Neville, if he does return chastened to his touchpads, may well be an even more interesting character.

What set him apart before, his attention to detail aside, was certainty. Those trenchant views on where experienced managers were getting it so wrong, but then Neville had spent his life in winning dressing rooms.

An empathy with how and why the best-laid plans can go awry might even be the making of him.

At least on Monday nights.

Small world of Six Nations hype

An enticing week of Six Nations build-up. In truth, the BBC promo, featuring the Carpenters’ Close To You as soundtrack and a series of bone-jarring collisions, played out more like a trailer for a concussion awareness documentary.

Why do birds suddenly appear, indeed.

For RTÉ’s competing bout of eggrandizement — as they cling to power in the last dark days before TV3 take over — they told us “the eyes of the world” will be on this weekend’s combatants.

A swift perusal of sports pages from South America to Africa to Asia and into Germany, Spain and so forth suggests a small world.

Stateside, too, they seem oddly more preoccupied with a local event.

But perhaps the most poignant advertisement of the week was the enormous ‘RBS 6 Nations - 6 days to go’ logo RTÉ emblazoned over James Connolly’s execution during the final episode of Rebellion.

To think the voice of the disenfranchised died for the place to become Rugby Country.

Would he be chuffed the game has supposedly been delivered to the people?

Or wondering why you still need to dig deep for the right school to have a decent shout of playing for Ireland?

Heroes & Villains

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

Chris Kamara:Followed Mayo’s example and held his hands up on the Great Sports Relief Bake Off, announcing: “My own recipe, from my lovely wife.”

Fota Island: Hosting Ireland in May. It takes a certain fortitude to risk becoming Roy Keane’s next Saipan.

Robot Wars: Its return can surely inspire Jonathan Pearce to recapture his commentary pomp.

HELL IN A HANDCART

Troy Deeney: Tough on diving, tough on the causes of diving: ie foreignness. “He (teammate Paredes) is not from England, he is not brought up the way I am brought up.”

TWEET FINISH

@BlessedWithPace: My girlfriend insists that footballing clichés are not a suitable birthday gift, but I’ve seen them given.


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