Belfast Telegraph

Scornful attitudes need a shake-up

By Declan Bogue

On the hunt to watch something a little different on Monday night, I turned to the 2008 documentary 'CSNY: Deja vu'.

Directed by Bernard Shakey, one of Neil Young's many pseudonyms, it was a fly on the wall film about the reformation of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 2006 to tour Neil's recently-recorded 'Living With War' album.

The collection of songs were an aging hippy's answer to the slaughter on all sides in Iraq and a good flaking for then-President George Bush. It climaxed with the stomping 'Let's Impeach The President'; a brutal thump of a protest song.

Young recorded the songs, putting them online for anyone to listen to, encouraging his fans to burn them off and save their money. He just wanted the message out there.

Some didn't appreciate the message, of course. In Atlanta, Georgia, the booing was incessant and many walked out of the show.

But there was something in the hideous scenes, of Iraq veterans describing the utter futility of their 'mission' with no end game, and the scenes of soldiers beating women and children that brought home how war distorts everybody.

It is a grotesque arrested development of the human condition that still, violence is the go-to oxymoron of 'conflict resolution'.

It's almost as if the possibility of being a committed pacifist is beyond comprehension. For that reason, it was a perfect antidote to some of the other jingoistic wallpaper we have been assailed with of late, considering that there are currently 48 registered wars worldwide.

No less than George Orwell described sport as 'War minus the shooting'. It is a common theory. I have heard clever, opinionated people recently assert that Gaelic football is war. And they have a point.

In the last fortnight though, some involved in county football have boosted their war effort with a propaganda wing.

In the lead-in to last weekend's football, Armagh manager Paul Grimley told this newspaper that he did not want to see their game against Meath, "besmirched by any poor decision-making."

Jason Ryan went more direct, applying pressure on referee Rory Hickey, when he suggested Conor McManus was the "number one free-winner in the country."

In victory, Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke was pushed for a response, but as ever, kept it simple and uncomplicated: "I suppose we were just disappointed that he chose a public forum to do that," before going on to talk about their own feelings about Conor.

The following day, another man who set aside his desire for the ball and played the man instead was James Horan, who described comments made by his opposite number, Cork's Brian Cuthbert, as a "new low", and waved his hand away for a post-match handshake.

Cuthbert's selector Ronan McCarthy had suggested that Mayo would "be good at tactical fouling, the likes of Cillian O'Connor and Kevin McLoughlin."

Mayo wing-back Lee Keegan felt that once he heard Cork at this practice, they could smell fear, just the same as last year when Donegal selector Rory Gallagher claimed that there had been collusion between Monaghan and Mayo after their Ulster final defeat.

When people are involved in inter-county competition, their personalities can be hardened.

As a journalist dealing with players and management teams, you are privy to a certain amount of stories of 'black ops.' In recent years, some of the anecdotes would make your blood curdle.

Like one club manager in Tyrone who took a telephone call from a member of a county backroom team, who sought any scandal or personal problems that players of that county might be experiencing, leading up to a game between the two.

Unfortunately, there is nothing new in this. Deplorable stuff really, but the culture of Gaelic games means that they go unreported.

Year on year, the GAA and Gaelic Player's Association appeal for greater respect. 'Campaigns' are launched and big names attach themselves. A black card is the proposed punishment for players who abuse each other.

It's nothing more than window-dressing. Not a single black card has been awarded for sledging, nor will it be.

This year we have seen management single out players. It has happened in the past, notably by Mayo manager James Horan last year, incensed last Sunday when it happened to one of his own.

There are those who will say that winning is the only thing, as if that excuses any kind of behaviour.

Pity them for buying the lie.

Belfast Telegraph

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