MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Diarmuid Connolly call harms game’s integrity

The sanction was opposed on technical issues, with the substantive matter left to one side. 

The judicial process itself has now come under fire, rather than the performance of those officials tasked with enforcement of the sport’s governing protocols. With one of the biggest games of the year looming, there was both a sense of desperation about the appeals process and an odd sense of dissatisfaction with the final outcome.

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly and his one-game suspension picked up against Mayo yesterday week or the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady and his appeal against the NFL’s suspension forcing him out of a season opener?

The level of interest among Irish people in American football is a fascinating sub-topic - is it, as I asked a mate during the week via e-mail, a matter of some interest among a lot of people or something a relatively small group obsess about in minute detail? - but the main appeal of these events in the last week or so has been their similarity. It’s also an interesting parallel.

We’re fond of castigating the GAA for its disciplinary processes - all those C-heavy committees, all the hair-splitting about events and actuality - and the bombardment is justified on occasion. When a player can’t appeal a suspension because notice of that suspension was sent to the wrong e-mail address, as happened earlier this summer, those responsible can only hold their hands up. Only in Ireland, you think.

Hence the nagging sense of familiarity about the resolution of the Brady case across the water - if you’re not familiar with the case, the New England Patriots were implicated in a ball-deflating scandal last season which soon became known as deflategate (and you thought Irish hacks were unimaginative), and Brady, the star quarter-back on the team, got a four-game suspension.

After an unsuccessful appeal Brady sought to overturn that suspension in open court, and last week a federal judge did just that. The grounds for the judge’s findings? That the NFL didn’t properly inform Brady of the punishment he faced, or what he was accused of; that the NFL didn’t let Brady or his representatives question NFL executives at his earlier appeal; and that the NFL didn’t give Brady or his representatives a chance to examine the evidence against him.

All of those reasons very reminiscent of the Disputes Resolution Authority decision late Friday night/early Saturday morning (and incidentally, suggesting a practiced county board secretary could have done for Brady what his no doubt high-priced lawyers did).

Clearly in composing the above I was angling in on a pat on the back for the GAA’s disciplinary mavens for composing a watertight case against Connolly ahead of last Saturday, only to awaken that morning to chirruping tweets which detailed the exact opposite.

Take the particulars of the Connolly case and put those to one side for a second; consider instead the far-reaching implications for the GAA, because the politician who got a rush of blood to the head and shouted about revelations which would shake the foundations of the state could have been referring to that DRA finding rather than whatever it is he was spoofing about.

The decision undermines the disciplinary process because it shows the current system is inherently flawed rather than liable to the occasional error. It offers counties which launch future appeals a fail-safe trump card when they take their cases, and a precedent which is all but impossible to counter. All of that without touching on the damage done to referees’ authority, or the intentions of managers, players and officials, which are simultaneously peripheral to this matter and yet also at the core of any discussion of it.

One would have thought that after last year’s changing of the rules mid-season that legislative codology had reached an all-time high in the GAA. It hasn’t. The quicker the move to an independent citing body comes, the better for all concerned, otherwise the very integrity of the games themselves are in question. Excessive? In an amateur game, what else is at stake?

Braced for the usual at Kingdom press night

Diarmuid Connolly call harms game’s integrity

In the bad books again with the boss, surely.

“Go to Kerry for their All-Ireland press night.”

An evening up close and personal with the masters of obfuscation then, the Jesuitical geniuses of underplaying one’s hand. No matter who the opponents are, before even pointing the bonnet southwest I am bracing myself for the eulogies to massive challenges, outstanding team, and lethal forwards that are massing like clouds off the Atlantic coast, waiting to sweep in.

In Kilkenny you get poker-faced understatement, in counties which have spent years in the wilderness one encounters wide-eyed delight, and there may be other variations on those differing themes, but past experiences in early September at press events in the Kingdom conform to a pattern.

Glum acceptance, head-shaking at the size of the task coming down the tracks, wistful glances out the window at the gathering storm.

For everyone’s sake I only hope the food is good.

Screen test for yours truly

If you are casting an eye over the TV tomorrow night you may get a glimpse of the inner workings here at Examiner Towers. Or at least the inner workings of your columnist, flipping through some newspapers. Said delights are to be found in a sports documentary called Pairc Life on RTÉ 2, which features the likes of Joe Brolly, Paraic Duffy and myself, all of us musing on the GAA. Though not all in the same room at the same time, unfortunately. Maybe in the next show.

When men of words prefer their fists

Continuing a long and proud tradition here of dropping hints about books one hopes will be dropping through one’s letterbox, there’s a biography of Joan Didion. If you have not read Slouching Towards Bethlehem, much less The Year of Magical Thinking, then I suggest you do so immediately.

The book I’ll just have to own is the new biography of Gore Vidal. Readers will be aware of my devotion to the great man, deliverer of such bons mots as the title of this book, written by Jay Parini: Every Time A Friend Succeeds A Part Of Me Dies.

No doubt it’ll include Vidal’s encounter with Norman Mailer in one of their many feuds. Mailer hit Vidal what we would call a clatter in the mouth.

When Vidal had wiped the blood away, he said: “Once again, Norman, words have failed you.”

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