Roche's Point: Testing is the key to keep GAA 'clean'
THERE'S a lot to be said for timely wake-up calls.
Sometimes they ring with such an unexpected ferocity that your eardrums - or championship aspirations - never recover.
That could be the Antrim hurlers after Sunday's Mullingar meltdown, leaving their qualification prospects from the Leinster SHC qualifier group precariously balanced.
Still, the boom-or-bust Saffrons at least have one chance of redemption in Carlow on Sunday week.
Today, we'd rather focus on another alarm bell - ringing not on the pitch, but in the testing room.
The breaking weekend news that a Monaghan footballer had failed a drugs test earlier this year sent ripples of shock, and anxiety, through the Gaelic world.
This is only the second such "adverse finding" involving a GAA player in the 14 years since the association signed up to the Irish Sports Council's anti-doping rules. The previous one involved Aidan O'Mahony, who tested positive for Salbutamol after Kerry's 2008 All-Ireland final defeat to Tyrone.
O'Mahony, an asthma sufferer, ultimately wasn't sanctioned as it was found the Salbutamol was due to using an inhaler for medical purposes.
Whereas the two-time All Star was a high-profile case, this latest finding involves a footballer on the fringes - he is not currently in the Monaghan squad and was described as a "trial panellist" in a GPA statement on Sunday, although he played for the county earlier in the year.
While the player is not a member, the GPA is offering its advice and support. The players' body won't be making any further comment until the Hearings Committee has concluded its deliberations - likewise, GAA president Aogan O Fearghail has rightly cautioned against any rush to judgement.
That said, this is a serious situation - according to the Sunday Independent, the player is believed to have tested positive for a steroid, so it behoves a full and rigorous hearing as to how this transpired.
This reality check is timely because we are just starting out on another summer during which you will read copious references to "do-or-die" matches, the "professional" commitment of players and the incredible sacrifices made in pursuit of Sam Maguire/Liam MacCarthy/provincial glory.
Reacting to the news on Sunday, O Fearghail stressed that there is "no personal gain" for the GAA's volunteer players ... fair point, but amateur status does not automatically equate with a reluctance to cross the line into substance abuse, especially given the modern-day expectation on players to be fitter, faster, stronger and built for endurance.
Team sports predicated on skill and tactical interplay, as opposed to brute strength, may not be the most fertile ground for a culture of doping - and the negligible number of positive tests, thus far, supports the theory that the problem is anything but rife in the GAA.
But the moment you get complacent is when the alarm bells start to ring ...