LARRY RYAN: The one law that truly counts

As the traditional confusion around GAA discipline melts into outright bafflement, there was at least a welcome restatement of first principles by Down’s Caolan Mooney following last Sunday’s win over Armagh, writes Larry Ryan.

Talking to Sportsjoe.ie, Mooney was able to proudly allay fears that his county colleagues could be cowed by some higher sense of duty to law and order.

Or that they had lost that wild and beautiful sense of lawlessness the clubman enjoys, possibly because his game isn’t broadcast for the country to see.

“A bit of a scuffle started but everyone in a Down jersey was in… it’s good to see that sort of commitment because you can sort of question sometimes if a county player has that,” Mooney said.

“Obviously if it’s a club player, it’s one in all in, so it’s good to see at county level as soon as one was in, everyone came in and defended each other. It shows a good unity between the team.”

It always certainly remains the cleanest way of administering the GAA’s tangled justice system; to let teams simply take the law into their own hands.

There is always room for improvement, obviously. And Caolan insisted no stone would be left unturned to ensure there weren’t players neglecting their responsibilities, perhaps out of some misplaced deference to rules and regulations.

“We’ll probably do a review of the game on Tuesday and you’ll be looking to see if anyone didn’t go in because that would be pointed out as if to say: ‘Why didn’t you go in to defend your team-mates?’”

There might have been some small concerns in the Down camp during and after the match that the GAA would do their own review on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. And find one or two culpable of ‘going in’. Perhaps they would dust down that ‘contributing to a melee’ rap, the one they eventually nailed ‘the most inoffensive man that ever hurled for Silvermines’ on.

Because, on the face of it, there was at least one melee at Pairc Esler, to which somebody surely contributed something, perhaps during the act of ‘going in’.

But because the referee had dealt with this impressive show of unity in time-honoured fashion — with yellow cards for two random combatants on each side — the matter seems to be closed. And the only lads who needed to worry about video review were the Down players who didn’t go in.

Mind you, had referee Conor Lane done anything else, such as show a red card, he would be castigated for ruining a game, when all lads were doing was going in to show a bit of unity.

Perhaps it is this great traditional fear of ruining a game that has seen GAA referees finally devise a new approach to discipline, a route that delays justice until they are safely home and away from some of the unwanted side-effects of justice administration, such as being locked into the boot of somebody’s car.

Gaelic football refs are no longer the three-card trick men they once were, though your guess remains as good as anyone else’s working out which card they’ll turn up for any given incident.

But they now also seem to have an arguably more potent trick up their sleeves, a more powerful card to play than the red, yellow and black ones in their pocket.

They can choose to show no card at all and instead write about an incident in their match report. And allow justice take its course, after a small delay, while they get safely home.

So Philly McMahon was hit with a one-game ban for using ‘abusive language towards a referee’ during the league final defeat to Kerry, even though the abused ref didn’t show him a card for it on the day.

And Diarmuid Connolly faces a 12-week ban for ‘minor interference with an official’ even though the official interfered with didn’t think to interfere with the game by advising more prompt action.

Alas, even this kick the can down the road approach is no protector against the second principle of GAA justice; that there no punishment fair and just enough that it shouldn’t be contested via every possible avenue.

Cork’s futile appeal of Alan O’Connor’s straightforward red card against Waterford underscored the battle to make anything stick. The video reviewers might have taken more interest in Mattie Donnelly’s minor interference with Chrissy McKaigue except, as Oisín McConville put it: “I can imagine if Tyrone went up to defend that, they would be able to get him off on this occasion.”

So when an offence comes along like Diarmuid Connolly’s, it doesn’t appear to matter that he didn’t really do very much at all, just that his offence tallied neatly with the letter of the law.

And when you’ve drawn heavily on the letter of the law before, complaining too much would be a little like whingeing that the electorate got it wrong this time, like Tory MP Crispin Blunt.

Ironically, if the letter of the law was applied as consistently on the field, as it must be off it, there would be no game at all.

Or at least very different games to the ones we watch.

The one law that truly counts

For now, teams are probably better off just controlling the controllables and Down manager Eamonn Burns praised his team’s discipline after Sunday’s game.

“People on the outside looking in say that’s not good for the game,” reflected Mooney, of the ‘going in’.

“But, on the inside, it just shows a want to win and that everyone is there for each other and everyone is willing to do anything to make sure we get the win.”

Whatever it takes. The one law that truly counts.

Sick as a parrot, Brian

Has anyone looked in on Seanie Maguire since the Preston deal was confirmed, checked how the metamorphosis is coming along?

Hopefully, the inevitable shapeshift into an international footballer is not too traumatic, like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa waking up in the body of an insect.

Whatever becomes of Seanie, the 18-point chasm he helped dig should bring some comfort to City supporters.

But we still invite them to join with other fretting fans in the traditional summer chorus of one of the great Irish singles, You Don’t Want A Boyfriend by Ken Sweeney’s band Brian.

Arsenal fans, in particular, are well versed in this one and the strings can already swell as they scour the internet desperately for word of Alexis Sanchez’s plans, spend the notional fee in their heads and try to rouse themselves for an unconvincing blast of Brian’s sad, but magnificent, final refrain:

“Maybe, maybe you leaving me wasn’t a bad thing.”

LeBron can’t lose

However he fared last night, LeBron isn’t losing much in defeat at the NBA finals.

Averaging 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists over the Cavs’ opening three losses, he is providing whatever resistance possible to the Warriors.

Indeed, as any of us who have ever come off the bench at 1-0 down in a 1-0 loss will attest, you don’t always lose in defeat. For the 45 and a half minutes LeBron was on court in game 3, the Cavs won by seven. Alas, the Warriors took the other two and a half by 12.

Heroes & Villains

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

Nolito:

His verdict on life in Manchester has set the standard for come-and-get-me pleas this and every summer: “My daughter’s face has changed colour — it looks like she’s been living in a cave.”

HELL IN A HANDCART

The hurling restructure:

No great issue with the round- robins, but why must every competition format incorporate some kind of convoluted sidedoor for the ‘second tier’, bolted onto the main structure like a botched extension with no planning permission.


Lifestyle

Fr Brian D’Arcy was born nearEnniskillen, Co Fermanagh in 1945.A Question of Taste with Fr Brian D'Arcy

About a year ago Aitch, real name Harrison Armstrong, dropped out of school to start working with his grandfather as a labourer in Manchester.Rapper Aitch on quitting his job to pursue music full-time

A new book delves into the details of Harry Clarke’s stained glass windows in such places as Dingle and Cork, writes Marjorie Brennan.The book that delves into the details of Harry Clarke's stained glass windows

They’re the best air purifiers around so we should grow more houseplants all year round, says Peter Dowdall.Not just for December: The reason why she should grow more houseplants all year round

More From The Irish Examiner