The suspensions for Armagh and Galway after last week’s melee at the end of normal time, has an in-built sliding scale of acceptability and relevance.
For Armagh, sub-goalkeeper Blaine Hughes and Conor Turbitt have received one-game bans after the game was looked at retrospectively. Greg McCabe, sent off in normal time, has been handed a two-game ban and Aidan Nugent has a one-game ban arising out of incidents in the game.
For Galway, substitute Cathal Sweeney has been given a one-game suspension based on the video evidence, and Sean Kelly has been given a one-game ban, which today will almost certain ly be overturned.
A €10,000 fine for both county boards will also sting.
Tiernan Kelly, the Armagh player who had his hand on Damien Comer of Galway’s face, has been landed with the heftiest sanction – a 24 weeks’ suspension.
A small explanation is needed here. In order to impose a lengthy suspension, it has to be time-based, rather than game-based.
There is a niggling suspicion that the Central Competition Controls Committee were, given it took until Thursday to notify the Armagh county board of the proposed punishment, intimately aware of Kelly’s personal situation.
He wasn’t playing because he is out with a long-term injury, a blood-clotting issue. Such an injury is most unfortunate, but the soundings are that this will keep him out of football for a few months yet.
In reality, Kelly will not be punished in any meaningful sense.
A word on him right here; after spending a week on this story, all the soundings are of a decent young man, dedicated to his club – who repaid his loyalty with a supportive statement this week – and good around the youngsters in Clann Eireann.
Caught up in a moment, he did something that looked awful at the time. Here’s the thing though; he will be fine. He comes from a solid family and has enough credit in the bank to ride this out.
We can leave Tiernan Kelly out of this debate from this point.
But in terms of how teams and players engage with each other, that needs to be an ongoing debate, a never-ending one to aspire towards something better than what we have right now.
The coverage of the game was by and large balanced. But anyone putting any store on the reaction in the social media world needs to be avoided.
Politicians had their say. And then they got a lash back for their troubles. Does anyone think that the Minister for Sport is not entitled to express her views on this?
We are told to move on.
Move on from what?
One of the better contributions this week came from a former Armagh player. Patrick Morrison was a goalkeeper in recent years, and he wrote in Gaelic Life that he went along to the grave of his late father – the great John Morrison – for guidance as to what to write on it.
He came away with a sign from his father. And his attitude is: ‘What am I going to do about this?’ And that involves working with young people to teach them some values to take into their sport.
As a public relations job, Armagh have made a dog’s dinner out of this.
There’s no point sugar-coating it. They could have gone about things a million different ways, but for their manager, Kieran McGeeney, to come out and strike up a confrontational tone to reporters and try to brow-beat his way out of things has left a sour taste with the general public.
How refreshing it might have been if McGeeney emerged with Kelly for the post-match press conference and they held their hands up, admitted that things were not good, and that they would be making amends.
Instead, we were left with a deeply unsatisfactory situation of just more conflict, coming away with the sense that Armagh felt they could just punch their way out of the corner.
After the suspensions were notified to the county board, Armagh released a terse statement, stating; “Following the investigation carried out by the CCCC, Armagh GAA can confirm the players and county board have accepted the proposed penalties. There will be no further comment.”
Armagh have been involved in three major incidents over the course of 10 games this season. Not all of them were the fault of Armagh.
There comes a time when the attitude of the panel can get in the way of the ambitions. If Armagh want to join the bracket of successful teams, to actually start playing in Ulster finals and winning them, they need a rethink.