Before we talk about Tiernan McCann, and we need to talk about him because no other topic in the GAA seems to be worth ventilating, an observation.
The current dislike of Tyrone can be examined from every angle under the sun and every one of those angles has been pontificated upon with late-Victorian era fastidiousness. My favourite remains the reference to a bad smell following them around.
A bad smell following Tyrone. No other team in the GAA? Please. As though every county in Ireland didn’t have a couple of bucks . . . but that’s a different argument.
For here and for now, I offer Tyrone a quick summary of their current predicament. They have become a County It’s Okay To Criticise, and their (internal) issue with that is that they used to be a County You Don’t Criticise.
That was partly because they weren’t All-Ireland winners up to a decade or so ago, so you didn’t have to take their stratagems and tactics too seriously. Then they became All-Ireland champions three times in five years, and you couldn’t criticise them then either because they were All-Ireland champions.Now, however, they are officially a County It’s Okay To Criticise.
Some counties never have to worry about losing the County You Don’t Criticise description. Kerry have always had that t-shirt, as Conor McCarthy discovered when pointing out in these pages that the Kingdom aren’t inclined to leave things to chance. Kilkenny are another county that one doesn’t criticise because - a personal theory - many other counties would welcome a 100 percent focus on just the one code, and a good few of them wonder how they might emulate the men in black and amber in obliterating the drain on their resources represented by the ‘weaker’ game within their own boundaries.
Other counties are fair game, and size or relative success is no guarantee of escaping the slings and arrows. Cork have always been a county one can say practically anything about - on this, the 25th anniversary of the double, for example, it’s worth remembering a well-regarded sportswriter once described that feat as probably the worst thing that could happen to the GAA the same summer as Italia ’90.
Tipperary are another county that come in for fair cutting, while Dublin get away relatively lightly: outfits as disparate as Meath and Donegal are rarely castigated, but you can be as personal as you want to be about Mayo and Wexford, by contrast.
As for Tyrone, I don’t see any way back from them in the short term, certainly. The lampooning of McCann as a pantomime villain is almost certainly linked to a general sense of disappointment with the championship season so far. The entertainment value has been negligible for much of the summer in both codes and McCann’s foolishness came along at just the right time for everyone to focus on, though that doesn’t mean the eight-week ban proposed for him is either fair or equitable.
I’m not as au fait with the law as Joe Brolly Esq., but in a series of tweets the former Derry player minced the rationale behind McCann’s proposed suspension pretty thoroughly.
As a parting shot to the Tyrone County Board, though, they might just consider accepting the ban that was proposed earlier this week. It might elicit some sympathy from around the country, and start them off on the slow road back, back to regaining the status of a County You Don’t Criticise once more.
I hope that the main part of the column is recognised for what it is, a tongue-in-cheek look at the predicament Tyrone find themselves in, even if it is a pickle they... (Boiled up? Cooked? Sprinkled with vinegar?)... drew on themselves.
On a more serious note, the sooner the GAA calls some kind of summit on the future of the championships, the better. It’s nothing more than a fig leaf to throw one’s hands in the air and accept what one is watching as the only way to exist.
Take a step back and consider what we’ve seen this summer.
Personal abuse. Appalling officiating. Serious assaults unpunished, minor issues mishandled. One-sided travesties. Monotony. Indiscipline. Bizarre fixture planning. Megalomaniacal county managers. Inept administration. Sledging.
But someone throwing himself on the ground is a crisis?
The GAA takes pride in how it’s run, and it’s right to do so. What it has achieved in the last 20 years alone has been almost unimaginable, given the vicissitudes faced.
Yet there is an insidious threat to the GAA in the lack of strong leadership being offered from the top at present. Decisive intervention is required to arrest the decline across the board, because the decline is real.
Use any metrics you want, but the inter-county games, the main economic driver of the association, are not as attractive as they were, and the trickle-down effect in financial terms — and in other ways — will soon be felt.
I have half an eye out for the NFL in America for various reasons, but I sat up with a start when I read about David Carter, now of the Chicago Bears, during the week.
Carter became a vegan to overcome his tendinitis but dropped 40 pounds in weight. He’s now 300 pounds again and his daily diet runs to this, according to GQ.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with hemp protein, bananas and berries; snack: 20 ounce smoothie - cannellini beans, banana, strawberries, and spirulina.
Lunch: brown rice and black beans with avocado and cashew cheese; snack: 20 ounce smoothie; another lunch: more brown rice, black beans etc; snack: 20 ounce smoothie.
Dinner: couscous with onion and garlic, and spinach salad with bell peppers; and snack: yet another 20 ounce smoothie.
David Carter, ladies and gentlemen. Just don’t stand downwind of him after lunch. What do you mean, transfer this column to the food section?
I note that David (The Wire) Simon has a new show coming out, Show Me A Hero, about housing policy in eighties Yonkers.
Yes, housing policy. I sneered at this on Twitter until slapped down by someone who pointed out that I have bored for Ireland about Robert Caro’s books on . . . housing policy, among other matters.
Point taken. I’ll give it a go, whether it unearths another McNulty or not.
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