Football fans across the country were rightly abhorred by the incident in last Sunday’s Kerry SFC semi-final which left East Kerry youngster Dara Moynihan laid out on the floor.
Video footage clearly shows Dingle selector Colm Geaney rushing onto the field to punch Moynihan in the face. Observers the length and breadth of the country called for a lengthy ban (if not a lifetime ban) but, incredibly, the county board have handed out an eight-week suspension.
It’s an absolute disgrace.
What kind of message are the GAA sending out here? In March, a Clare footballer squirted water in the general direction of an umpire. He was banned for three months. I know a lad who was incorrectly told by his Australian club that his suspension from a 7-a-side tournament didn’t carry over to their league competition. He played in the league and got a six-month worldwide ban. And a mentor entering the field of play to physically assault a player gets eight weeks?
Geaney will miss the county final on Sunday, which Dingle are expected to lose, and he’ll be back on the line for the start of next season.
There has been a lot of player-on-player violence recently but, as public reaction to this particular incident has shown, there is something particularly egregious about someone entering the field to attack a player.
On-pitch fighting isn’t something that I’d condone but you have to give some leeway to the guys who are actually out there. It’s a physical game and everyone is desperate to win. Things get heated – it’s simply bound to boil over every now and then. You accept that as a player and unless it’s an especially aggressive or sneaky assault, guys rarely even hold a grudge. It’s water under the bridge.
But a non-player, who has no business whatsoever on the field of play, simply cannot do what Geaney did on Sunday. It’s assault, in my opinion, and should be treated as such. The old “If you did it on the street…” argument doesn’t always hold up but in this instance I think it does. If someone did the same thing outside the chipper the night before he’d end up in court. If a supporter ran onto the field and did it he’d be in serious trouble. Why should a selector get away with a slap on the wrist?
As far as I’m concerned, the pitch should be for players and players alone. You see managers and selectors roaming the sidelines and encroaching 5-10 yards onto the field of play, sometimes more. As a player I find it so annoying. Mentors run across the width of the field to have a quick chat with a player, often while the ball is in play. I’m convinced there’s no need for it half the time.
To be honest, I think some mentors get a bit of a buzz out of it. They want to feel like they’re part of the action and they want people up in the terrace to see how integral they are to the operation. In reality, the instructions you get from the sideline are rarely insightful. The gist is generally, “Don’t do that bad thing you just did. Do something good instead.”
Got it. Sound.
If managers really need to pass on information to their players, maybe a runner system like the one in the AFL would be a… runner? Allow two designated members of the backroom team to enter the field at an appropriate juncture, speak to players and leave in a timely fashion. If they fail to adhere to the rules, say for instance they address or approach an opposition player, they get sent off and the team forfeits their right to deploy a runner for the rest of the game.
And the runners could double as maoir uisce as well. Some clubs are giving bottles to any Joe Soap on the basis that “He’s just a water boy” but, when it comes down to it, you’re basically giving unqualified people free reign to enter the field whenever they deem fit.
I think technical areas like the ones in soccer would be a good idea too. Some GAA managers would have a hard time adapting but so be it. At the end of the day, player safety has to be paramount and as last Sunday’s incident shows, some non-players actually need to be penned in.
When things do get tetchy, managers/selectors/maoir uisce entering the field of play can be more than annoying; it can be downright infuriating.
Players square up all the time but 99 times of out of 100, no punches are thrown. Even when a punch is thrown, the flare-up almost always resolves itself relatively quickly. The intervention of a mentor, or a maor uisce, or even a sub – even if his intentions are good – invariably has an aggravating effect rather than a calming one. If you’re playing your immediate reaction is, “Get off the f***ing pitch”.
Look, I wasn’t down there on the line the last day. The culprit may feel as though he can somehow justify what happened. Maybe words were exchanged.
But, funnily enough, with players from both sides piling into the melee, Dara actually made the decision not to take part. He may have been worried about getting sent off and so did the smart thing by keeping his distance. And he still ended up getting attacked.
The GAA have to get serious with their punishments when incidents like this happen. The way things are going, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt. Or worse.