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Cynical play is poisoning relationships: Brolly

BY John Campbell

Hundreds of thousands of words have been said, written and tweeted since Joe Brolly's now famous (some would say infamous) outburst on RTE last Saturday when he castigated Tyrone ace Sean Cavanagh for a rugby-style tackle on Monaghan's Conor McManus that, to all intents and purposes, prevented a certain goal.

Yet two further words uttered since then by Brolly himself perhaps most accurately reflect the damage that cynical play, particularly at the top level, can inflict within the Association.

"Poisoning relationships" is how former All Ireland winner Brolly now encapsulates the impact of serial rules transgressions and it's difficult to argue with this curt summation. In an era in which the GAA is enjoying a greater media profile than ever before there is, nonetheless, a reluctance on the part of players, managers and officials to tell it like it is.

And why? Because they might not want to offend someone in the opposing camp – or somewhere else for that matter.

Brolly, known for expressing his views without fear or favour, gets to the kernel of a problem within the Association with his latest assertion.

"Cynical play is beginning to poison the ethos of the game. It's poisoning relationships and it's making things very, very unpalatable and unpleasant," fumes the Derry man.

But Brolly has lost no time in ensuring that his relationship with Cavanagh will be untarnished after he admitted yesterday that his attack on the Tyrone player's manliness was "most unfair" and apologised profusely for this aspect of his condemnation.

But Brolly is sticking to his guns as far as his criticism of Cavanagh's rugby tackle is concerned.

"I spoke to Sean and apologised to him for one line which I hadn't realised what I'd said at the time, 'but as far as he's a man he can forget about it'. What I meant obviously, 'as a man', he doesn't conduct himself on the sporting field the way he ought to, but it's nothing to do with his private life," the Belfast-based barrister said.

"It was most unfair when I looked at it again, so fair is fair and he was very gracious about accepting it, but I did say 'will you stop this cynical tackling?'"

He may have invoked somewhat intemperate language in addressing Cavanagh's tackle in particular but Brolly's more succinct analysis of what is an acute malaise within the sport should not be allowed to fall on stony ground.

We are all rather too familiar with the dubious code of omerta that surrounds games, that 'what happens on the field stays on the field'.

Players generally have no interest in 'shopping' perpetrators of the dark arts. Personal relationships actually form the bedrock of the GAA but should they be protected at a grievous cost to the sport itself?

Joe Brolly does not think so and while many would agree with him – they might not be prepared to come out and say this!

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