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Joe Kernan: When it’s right thing to butt out

There is nothing that quite carries such a sinister undertone within the GAA as does the ‘third man in’ element.

We have seen it happen countless times, of course. Two players have a disagreement either verbal or physical, a third player decides to throw in his tuppence-worth and suddenly all hell breaks loose.

The upshot is usually a few yellow cards, possibly a red or two, several weeks of speculation in relation to the outcome of Hearings and Appeals Committee meetings and the reputation of a club or clubs tarnished.

And all because someone decides to poke his nose in where it is not wanted. We had it again last weekend — wouldn’t you have thought players everywhere would have absorbed the lessons from the now infamous Derrytresk v Dromid Pearses fall-out?

But no. Monaghan and Kildare players engaged in a set-to at the interval of their game in Clones although to be candid only a few real blows appeared to be struck.

Man of the match Paul Finlay was targeted by Kildare’s Brian Flanagan who was subsequently shown a red card by referee Joe McQuillan while several other players from both sides were given a yellow.

The two minutes of mayhem marred an otherwise fine game with Monaghan manager Eamonn McEnaney quite correctly observing that there had not been a “dirty stroke pulled by any player” until the interval shambles.

Yet the flare-up has now resulted in the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) proposing that each county be fined €5000 — and in these austere times this is a heavy penalty for any county board to have to face up to.

What is it that persuades players who have no initial involvement in a ‘disagreement’ to immerse themselves in the physical element of that contretemps?

Right now, this is a big problem for the GAA.

While much is being made of the fact that the CCCC will study the video of Sunday’s game, it is worth bearing in mind that the GAA Director General Paraic Duffy was seated in the stand and had a bird’s eye view of the unsavoury proceedings.

While Duffy of course has no input into the actual disciplinary process, his views on what happened would certainly be worth hearing although he is likely to keep his counsel.

It is time for the GAA to be seen to take very firm action to combat the ‘third man in’ syndrome which quite often morphs into a ‘one in, all in’ situation.

It may be viewed as a radical step but I think that referees should be empowered to inform county boards in writing just where they see players who represent going wrong, particularly on a consistent basis, in high profile matches.

If the county board is made aware of the referee’s feelings, then these can be conveyed to the team management and dialogue can then ensue with the purpose of getting to the root of the problem.

At the moment, the referees present their match reports to the CCCC which studies them and decides if further action is required in relation to any aspect of the game.

It is a fact of life that when punishments are proposed by the CCCC they are invariably challenged through the appeals process and more often than not the sanctions are reduced.

This of course serves to undermine the decisions made by referees and also gives scope to players to transgress again.

It was former Mayo player Kevin McStay, now a television pundit, who made the point at the weekend that clubs and counties will go on challenging deterrents no matter how severe they appear. Indeed, the greater the punishment, the bigger chance there is that it will not be taken on the chin.

McStay is of the opinion that while the GAA is prepared to impose heavy sanctions, clubs and counties are capable of having these considerably diluted and are prepared to go down every possible avenue to succeed in achieving this.

The season is less than two months old and it would appear that we have had more controversy than you might get in six months.

Derrytresk learned the harshest of lessons when they lost their All-Ireland final to Clonbur by the narrowest of margins last Sunday — to be the gut-wrenching nature of such a loss is a far bigger punishment than anything proposed from within the corridors of power.

Can’t you just imagine Derrytresk’s frustration as a modest Clonbur side made the most of the fact that they just inched past a side stripped of the services of one-fifth of its most talented players?

That’s what heartache is — it is hypothetical that Derrytresk may miss out on a chance to represent Tyrone in the Ulster Club Intermediate championship and Ulster in the All-Ireland series at this level over the course of the next five years.

But it is stark reality that today the club is sadder and wiser over what occurred. Other teams should take note of the fact that if players act in haste in the context of a game, then they will be left to repent at leisure.

Belfast Telegraph

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