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Opinion: GAA delegates talking out both sides of their mouths

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by Adam Moynihan

Like a lot of people, I was disheartened by the result of last Saturday’s vote on Plan B. I genuinely believe it would have been fantastic for the game of football. It had its flaws, of course it did, but it would have been so much better than the status quo.

What I found really frustrating about this episode were the inconsistencies in delegates’ arguments against the league championship proposal. Speaker after speaker said they were for change, that change was necessary, before asserting that this change was the wrong change. Well, what is the right change? The change that will suit every single stakeholder?

I truly doubt that such a panacea exists. Should we not focus on improving the situation rather than perfecting it?

HOPES AND DREAMS

For different reasons, I was disappointed with every county that spoke out against the proposal. Take Fermanagh, for example, members of the Ulster bloc who voted against Plan B apparently out of loyalty and attachment to the Ulster Championship. Tiernach Mahon of Fermanagh GAA said that "this motion has the potential to destroy the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of Fermanagh people".

With all due respect to the people of Fermanagh, they haven’t won a single Ulster Championship in 133 years of competition, let alone an All-Ireland. If their hopes, dreams and aspirations have survived up to this point, surely they can survive a different type of championship.

Mayo GAA Chairman Liam Moffatt raised concerns about the sixth-place team in Division 1 not qualifying for the knockout phase while teams from lower divisions potentially would (via a playoff). Mayo are one of the best teams in Gaelic football and they have been over the course of the past 10-15 years. And here they are, worried about finishing sixth?

The fact that the Kerry County Board also flagged this sixth-place issue didn’t sit well with me as a Kerry supporter. What happened to that famous Kerry self-confidence?

In the last five “normal” iterations of the league (2016-2020), the team who finished sixth had a total of seven points or less. Basically, to finish fifth a team needs to win four games out of seven. And in three of the last five seasons, the fifth-place team only won three of their matches. If a team fails to win four or more championship matches in quick succession, they really don't have a right to be talking about an All-Ireland.

BACK SEAT

I have to say I haven’t been too impressed with Kerry’s attitude throughout this process. As the game’s most successful county, we should be leaders. We should be setting an example. Instead, our delegates took a back seat.

First they said they didn’t know how they would be voting, that they were waiting to be swayed by arguments on the day. As many of us predicted, there was nothing noteworthy said on the day that hadn’t been said in public over the past few weeks and months.

Addressing Congress, Tim Murphy urged the GAA to effectively kick the motion down the road. Delay the vote so there could be more discussion on the topic. A ‘no’ vote at this stage would be a “travesty”, he said. “All the work of the committee would go to waste.”

Yet Kerry reportedly proceeded to vote ‘no’ anyway (we don’t know for sure because there is zero transparency in these ballots). And then, immediately after, the Kerry GAA chair told the Irish Examiner that he was “very confident” that a tweaked Proposal B would pass in February.

The bottom line for me is this: Kerry players wanted Plan B. Kerry supporters, from what I can discern, also wanted Plan B. Tim Murphy assured us that the Kerry delegation would vote based on what was right for Kerry football. If “Kerry football” is not the team and the fans, then what is it?

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It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers

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National League Division 1

Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.

The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.

With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.

ROSTER

It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.

Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.

American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.

The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.

Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.

Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.

A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.

The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE

The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.

The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.

Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.

Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.

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Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence

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Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?

In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.

The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.

If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.

Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?

While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.

Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.

But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.

As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?

Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.

When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.

As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.

GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.

I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.

You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.

Whatever suits.

There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.

It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.

So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?

Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.

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