Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Rhinoceros hide now essential armour in GAA

An interesting discussion on the waning influence of newspapers occurred on ITV’s The Agenda programme on Monday.

The panel of talking heads ranged from Germaine Greer through Sir Christopher Meyer, Michael Heseltine and Mariella Frostrup. Ok, they aren’t the kind of crowd that would be seen wrestling with a steward on Hill 16 at the final whistle of an All-Ireland final, but they made for a lively chat about the ethics of successive Prime Ministers who cosied up to Rupert Murdoch in the hope they would receive favourable press treatment.

Meyer said PM’s were essentially wasting their time trying to butter up Murdoch, due to his limited reach.

When it was put to Heseltine however, he held different views.

His position was that a single headline alone may not do much damage, but when a newspaper proprietor gave the nod for a concerted campaign, the constant drip-drip of negative news reports created an image that was difficult to quash and impossible to reverse.

Over the past few weeks, we must question how a new phenomenon has emerged in the GAA; the normalisation of managers being replaced towards the end of a league campaign.

Because of a leak to media outlets about what now appears to be a fictional players’ vote, Val Andrews (pictured) left his post at Cavan.

It seems the entire country knew about it through Twitter before Andrews did.

A matter of days later, we had the famous Meath county board meeting when Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney was saved when the guillotine got caught by that sturdy dowel of GAA administration — two-thirds of the vote required to carry a motion. The popular Monaghan man had to endure plenty of press speculation, with radio stations and papers converging on Navan that night to see a bloodletting.

There should be dismay at the claims being made against Banty. It was said that Meath had never been at a lower ebb in the league, but that is a selective claim.

With restructuring and different titles for league groupings, Meath have spent time in what could be termed the third tier.

This may seem unpalatable, but there is an unhealthy narcissism among the general GAA population who believe there is a code of ethics to this sort of thing.

Calling for a manager’s head is an activity belonging to bi-polar coverage of the Premier League. Not so.

It used to be that a bad league campaign would be brushed off, and a manager could play down its’ importance. If they won their first game, then all would be forgiven.

Take Banty for example. The chances are they will beat Wicklow, then Carlow, and enter a Leinster semi-final with all guns blazing against Kildare, whom they only lost to in the league by a point. Joe Sheridan is on his way back, the players are backing the manager. Meath are always dangerous in this position.

The increasing relevance of league performances, set against Championship, has brought in these curious ‘spring-cleaning’ operations, encouraged by screaming headlines and the natural appetite for inside-the-camp gossip. The ‘drip-drip’ that makes Heseltine whince.

There are beginnings of a formula here. If you lose four and win three in the league, you are open to criticism that may end up with a sacking.

Lose three and draw one, and you get to a league play-off, like Mayo have. The margins are that small. The lack of perspective is frightening.

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