MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Managers have duty of care to their players

You could probably assemble your own Davy Fitzgerald/Clare discipline piece at this stage. If you need help, just root around in this bag — letter, players, statement, Banner, humiliation, breach, policy — and put the words together in no particular order.

I noticed a few parallel issues worth revisiting though — for instance, the surprise at the statement issued by the Clare squad last week, or rather the surprise at the apparent lack of empathy shown by remaining players for their departed brethren.

It’s hard to see why this should be surprising, when nobody has much of an idea of the group dynamic within the squad.

That’s true of many panels, but to a large extent the All-Ireland winners of 2013 remain mysterious to us, as they rarely feature in the media. Could you say who the strong characters are, or the jokers, in the Banner camp?

Another notable theme in the commentary has been comparing the Clare situation with other counties, other eras. Nonsense, of course. Those observers spouting the ‘our team’ and ‘our time’ lines aren’t comparing like with like. What worked 10 years ago would hardly work for a team now; going another 10 years back, or more, for your comparisons doesn’t help.

At least the media haven’t been blamed (yet) for this row, though it’s early days yet. The default setting for most inter-county managers is, of course, utter paranoia, but Davy Fitzgerald is a former newspaper columnist and TV pundit and surely too savvy to play the ‘they’re-all-against-us card’.

The most significant aspect of the row was picked up by Donal O’Grady of this parish when on Seó Spóirt the other night — when he put it in a wider human-resources context, for want of a better word.

This is important because it broadens the discussion and gives it a setting that most people can identify with — would this be appropriate behaviour for a workplace?

Clearly an inter-county team is not a workplace, but similar standards of behaviour and mutual respect are expected, given the vast amount of time a senior hurling or football squad spend in each other’s company, the seriousness with which the common objective is viewed and pursued, and the high pressure situations all — players and management alike — find themselves in regularly.

Because of that, the term ‘duty of care’ is one that more and more managers are likely to hear.

Not just managers, either. Last season yours truly suggested the GAA had failed in its duty of care to a player because of an unfair focus on his free-taking; in one interview he was repeatedly named by the highest office-holder in the GAA, the President, as he sought to argue that the player in question was not in fact being singled out...

We’ll move on.

The point is that duty of care is no longer a phrase reserved for parliamentary questions or obscure textbooks on labour relations. It refers to responsibility, and its flip side, culpability.

I’d suggest that these last few days the people watching this develop are not the GPA, though they have an interest in the matter, and not Croke Park, though it has an interest in the matter.

Not Kilkenny either, though they faced Clare yesterday, and not (just) hacks like yours truly.

Managers and coaches at all levels will await the end game with keen interest, because its resolution may be replicated in dressing-rooms the length and breadth of the country.

Why I owe Curtis a gift

At some point I’m going to have to send a few bucks to Bryan Curtis, or a lump of Waterford Crystal, or maybe some of that nice chocolate from O Conaill’s in Cork city.

At any event I owe him. Over the last few days I stumbled across another piece from the Grantland writer which neatly summed up one of the challenges facing sportswriters everywhere.

To wit, the framing of a question to a sportsman, and the mortal sin that is the ‘talk about’ question.

Curtis pointed out that a journalist says to a subject, ‘talk about (how you scored/tackled/won’, it’s such a feeble, open-ended query that it allows the answerer to head off with any anodyne, meandering response that they want.

“Through its sheer repetition,” wrote Curtis, “Talk About has become the quasi-official question of the postgame press conference, and a sign of its crack-up. What “How do you feel?” is to the crime beat, Talk About is to sportswriting.”

Hands up. Guilty as charged. It can be tricky enough to kick off a discussion after a sports event with an athlete, and few among us have not started the ball rolling with that kind of gentle opener.

That’s why I cut loose yesterday at Cork v Tipperary.

As soon as Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Eamon O’Shea emerged from their respective dressing-rooms, I left them have it. They’re probably still shaking their heads at the depth of my probing.

“Tell us how that game went, Jimmy/Eamon . . . ”

Staggered final day starts lack fairness

Does anyone else think it interesting that the Six Nations finished not with a bang, but with a three-part sound effect, one game after another last Saturday?

This is a tournament that’s gone to the final day before: is it altogether fair to stagger the games out over the final day’s action and give certain countries an advantage in terms of knowing what they need to win it outright?

My mind goes back to 1982 and the infamous Anschluss game of that year’s World Cup, when Austria and West Germany connived to put each other through at the expense of Algeria, whose game was scheduled earlier in the day.

Granted, there’s an element of mounting excitement on a day like last Saturday, a sense of the order getting taller, if you like, with every Welsh touchdown, but on the other hand there’s the small issue of fairness to the participants. They surely deserve some respect in this.

Making sense of the Rodgers philosophy

From the Department of Things You Might Have Missed: over the weekend I noted a reference to Brendan Rodgers’ management style.

The Times carried an in-depth feature on the Rodgers approach which included the gaffers’s tendency to draw a stick man for his players with a crown on his head, trying to convey a sense of responsibility to them.

Interesting.

Though if he asked them to draw a stick man depicting themselves I’d have been a lot more interested.


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