Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

'Sorry' still the hardest word for the GAA

Dublin manager Paul Caffrey (right) with Ciaran Whlean, the only player to date who has apologised for his part in last Sunday's violence
Dublin manager Paul Caffrey (right) with Ciaran Whlean, the only player to date who has apologised for his part in last Sunday's violence

Apologies, like honesty, tend to be thin on the ground from time to time within the GAA.

Saying sorry is apparently not viewed as de rigeur in an organisation which, despite its magnificent track record at grassrooots level, still manages to shoot itself in the foot rather too regularly within its higher echelons.

It may be deemed 'manly' in some quarters to hit someone from behind on the field of play but 'wimpish' to admit human error or transgression.

Thus the message of apology from the Dublin county board in the wake of the disgraceful violence that marred their team's meeting with Meath at Parnell Park last Sunday is to be welcomed even it will not alter what is currently a depressing GAA landscape.

Both counties, not surprisingly, are considering submitting appeals against at least some of the proposed bans handed down. Dublin's eight suspended players have already met with the team management to discuss a course of action while the eight Meath players facing periods in limbo were due to meet their county officials and manager Colm Coyle last night.

It's believed that several Meath players will decide to challenge their proposed bans, particularly Nigel Crawford, Shane McAnarney, Brendan Murphy, Seamus Kenny and Niall McKeigue who face eight weeks out in the cold.

While the Dublin board has decided not to challenge the ¤20,000 fine imposed, the Meath board will also consider appealing against a similar penalty.

When gaelic football is forced to play second fiddle to boxing at whatever level within the country's biggest sporting organisation, officials are usually very quick to point to the hundreds of games that are staged every week without the slightest hint of trouble.

And they are right, of course.

But in an era when wall-to-wall television flashes images of thuggery into every living room, when the GAA is battling for the affections of every child in the country because of the increased competition from soccer and rugby and when virtually every decision is being challenged both morally and legally, facts have to be faced.

The GAA simply cannot AFFORD to have any recurrence of what happened on Sunday, particularly in a high-profile contest.

With six sponsors now generously underwriting the All Ireland Football and Hurling Championships and with the European Soccer Championships and the Olympics looming on the horizon, the Association will need every person it can attract through the turnstiles over the coming months.

Dublin's apology may be slightly belated - Meath's has yet to surface, as far as we know.

But then when manager Colm Coyle mischievously declared after the game: " I think I'll be like Arsene Wenger and say that I saw nothing," this gives just a hint of where we are going.

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