MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Rule book not always enough

Hot on the heels of Donegal player Paddy McBrearty’s no show a couple of weeks ago at a GAA disciplinary hearing, we now have the ‘Corbett-Delaney Avoidance’, which sounds more Richard Ludlum thriller title than GAA embarrassment.

It’s an embarrassment all right, though. Coming swiftly after the McBrearty farrago, not to mention the spluttering non event of a championship starter last week in New York, it hasn’t been a stellar fortnight for the association.

Curiously enough we are no longer being asked to make comparisons between how the GAA works and how other sports operate, which is regrettable.

The raisin d’être for the new sideline regulations was supposedly the pristine touchlines of rugby union, and looking at that sport would prove fruitful here.

Not in a ‘sure look at what happened with that Paul O’Connell non-citing Incident’ kind of way, because a) the old ‘they’re as bad as us’ defence isn’t really a defence at all and b) the rugby establishment was clearly aware that what has happened was unsatisfactory.

One leading figure in the game said of the O’Connell non-citing: ‘I think the baseline that has just been created by the citing commissioner is an incredibly dangerous one. 90,000 hits on YouTube. That’s kids and parents. If that’s deemed by an individual to be an acceptable act on a rugby field...’

It’s easy to lampoon that kind of reaction by asking if someone will please think of the children, but those comments expose an awareness of how the game is perceived — not by the people who are committed to it, but by those who might become interested in it.

It would be refreshing to hear a leading figure in hurling or Gaelic football stand up and say something similar. Instead of relying on the technicalities of the rule book, natural justice would be an interesting participant in the judicial processes of the GAA. (An equally interesting side issue here is the reluctance to criticise the county boards involved in this latest case compared to the ease with which pundits douse another county with ordure for doing exactly the same thing, of course.)

By the way, the man complaining about the O’Connell case quoted above was Joe Schmidt. Now Ireland coach. See what happens when you tell the truth?

The lowdown on boxing’s lethal secret

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned BackPage Press and their 90 minutes idea, e-books 10,000 words long which you could read in an hour and a half.

When we saw that Barry Whyte had written about the sweet science — Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret — we felt a chat was in order.

“Anyone with a passing interest in boxing will know that boxers sometimes have difficulty making weight,” Whyte said.

“It’s one of the great euphemisms. It’s assumed that that’s an individual thing — that a boxer occasionally has to dehydrate to make weight, and while that’s not ideal, it’s just part of the game.

“I thought that until I looked into this, and it turns out that it’s much more systemic — it’s a tactic used by many boxers.

“A fighter who weighs slightly more than 180 pounds, who should fight as a light-heavy, may prefer to fight at middleweight, where his strength would be much better matched, so he trains at 180 pounds, where all his strength and conditioning is done, but the week before the weigh-in fights he boils down.

“He strips out all the fluids from his system, skips in a sweatsuit, all of that, and get down to 165, 167.

“That costs him. He’ll be gaunt and look like he’s lost a lot of muscle mass, but he’ll make the weight. In the 24 hours after the weigh-in he’ll try to ingest all that water again.”

This is where the problems arise, says Whyte: “Ingesting the water isn’t the same as rehydrating — it takes a lot to get the fluid level back to what it was.

“Plus, there’s the danger of brain dehydration, that it’s lost mass and therefore has more room to move around in your head. That’s only a matter of millimetres, or less, but studies have shown that huge shuddering head trauma aren’t as problematic in terms of brain damage as repeated small impacts. That’s the very definition of boxing.

“Concussion and brain injury is a very big issue in American football but dehydrating the way boxers do may expose them to even more damage. It’s just that American football has a higher profile in America than boxing, obviously, so the focus is on that sport over there rather than regulating the 24-hour weigh-in or boxers’ weights generally.”

There’s also the potential for dramatic mismatches, and as Whyte says, the multiplicity of boxing organisations militate against legislating against this.

“The organisations are concerned about this but the result of the alphabet soup of organisations is that if one of them legislates strongly on it, then a fighter will simply go to another organisation.

“Everyone’s aware of the gravity of the problem. At the end of last year Kieran Farrell collapsed after a fight with an acute subdural haematoma and he admitted he’d been dehydrating before the fight, which was potentially the cause of his haematoma.

“The British Boxing Board of Control has some of the strictest rules in this regard but this can happen under their watch. And if it can happen there it can happen almost anywhere.”

* Log onto http://www.backpagepress.co.uk/content/90-minutes/ for more.

The bigger the brand, the bigger the gaffe

First the British and Irish Lions, now Manchester United.

It looks like the bigger the brand, the slower it is to learn about social media.

The Lions were forced to issue an apology during the week for some distasteful efforts, including an animal skewered on a fence in a very tender area, and a reference to players being “suicidal” as they waited for the squad announcement.

Then you had the poor gom in the Manchester United office blaring a welcome to new United boss David Moyes a day or two in advance of Moyes’ actual coronation.

The interesting thing for this observer is that you rarely see such mistakes being made by small sports organisations — some of them much, much smaller — though presumably those have fewer levels of safeguards and management to dig through before a decision is made about putting something into the public domain.

The answer, therefore, is for these sporting monoliths to get a spotty teenager in on work experience and set him or her loose on the internet with a couple of passwords.

Couldn’t be any worse than the last week’s work.

Wailing fans cast Fergie as football’s princess Di

Kudos to the tweeter last week who wondered if the reaction to Alex Ferguson’s sudden departure was reminiscent of the death of Princess Diana.

On that occasion you may remember people being apparently overcome by the death of someone they had never met: my own recollection is of the yelps of “Diana!” as the coffin was transported through the streets of London.

Any death is sad for the family and friends and though this corner of the newspaper is no fan of the British royal family, to put it mildly, if a wife, mother and sister is lost then you can understand the grief of those involved.

But the keening and wailing from members of the public, the hysterical articles written about the woman? Please.

There was a good deal of that to be found among people who follow Manchester United last week as well. As many people have pointed out, the retirement of a man in his seventies could be viewed in many ways, but hardly as a shock. My only regret is that Tony Blair wasn’t around to call Ferguson ‘The People’s Hairdryer’.


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