herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Whispers sure to fall on deaf ears

AS the old BT ad proclaimed, it's good to talk. Maybe the GAA should be doing a lot more of it.

The latest controversy/kerfuffle /storm in a teacup concerns the GAA's decision to move the goalposts when deciding how to separate National League teams who finish level on points.

Instead of using scoring difference to settle such tie-breakers, as had been the norm, the head-to-head result between two deadlocked counties will now decide who finishes ahead of the other. Only where three or more teams finish level on points will the old scoring difference system apply.

So far, so simple, you might say. For the record, the goalposts were officially moved by a vote of Congress almost 12 months ago and not, as some griping managers may have inferred, last week.

But here's the rub, and here's why the GAA really should embrace the message of Bob Hoskins in the aforementioned BT ad.



critique

It's good to talk -- and keep on talking. Don't merely rely on your county board secretary to tell the county manager because (a) maybe he'll forget or (b) your manager may be too distracted to listen. And don't rely on your Congress delegates to spread the word either, because some of them may have slept through the entire debate in the first place.

Curve Ball's humble advice to the GAA is that, if there's a brand new rule coming into force, then tell the world. Then keep on spreading the good news because, let's face some 21st century facts, people today have very short attention spans.

Croke Park came out fighting in yesterday's newspapers, vehemently refuting Micky Harte's latest barbed critique of HQ officialdom.

The Tyrone boss was clearly caught unawares on Saturday night when told of the new edict governing NFL teams who finish level on points, declaring: "So they tell us when the season is over? That's good. That's unreal that we are playing games of that nature and our season depends on something that nobody has actually told us about."

Not so, countered a variety of Croker spokespersons who insisted that Tyrone officials were fully au fait with the new regulations.

Curve Ball did a little digging yesterday and is happy to conclude that, yes indeed, there should be absolutely no reason why Harte wasn't told by his own county. But that is not to say that Croke Park is blameless in this whole affair; anything but.

You see, last week, almost by chance, the Evening Herald stumbled upon the fact that head-to-head results and not scoring difference will be the primary arbiter when teams finish level in the NFL and NHL.

Now, we don't claim any great rule book expertise and maybe we should have known -- but why didn't Croke Park proclaim it from the rooftops at the start of February, when the National Leagues were being launched?

After all, this is a fairly significant decision with major ramifications affecting league final qualification, promotion and relegation.

Were we alone in our ignorance? Eh, put it this way. At the launch of the GAA Cúl Camps eight days ago, several reporters (including one who rightly prides himself on his statistical prowess) had no idea about the rule change. Nor did Kieran McGeeney: during a brief chit-chat about the Division Two promotion race, the Kildare manager and Cúl Camp ambassador was reflecting on the likelihood that it would all come down to scoring difference -- until informed otherwise.

At least Geezer won't have to worry about such complications following Kildare's latest defeat by Laois ... but Harte's charges will suffer top-flight demotion if they finish joint-second last with Monaghan, who have already beaten Tyrone.

Equally, Mayo will find themselves squeezed out of a Division One final place if they finish level on points with Dublin -- and yet John O'Mahony was "not aware" of any team manager who knew about the rule change.

"I would imagine there will be uproar next week," he predicted.

We can't explain why these high-profile bosses didn't know, because the regulations for the 2010 National Football and Hurling Leagues were emailed out to all county board secretaries on October 13 last year ... and they clearly spell out the ground rules for separating two counties who finish level on points. Maybe, as a rule change, this section should have been highlighted, capped and underlined for extra attention; but that's just a presentation quibble.

Besides, this new rule came into effect at club level in 2009 so you'd imagine that many grassroots members were aware of it -- from painful experience in some cases.

But we still must return to our opening point: this rule should have been spelled out loud and clear to Joe Public, not just Joe Manager.

This latest spat may well reinforce the impression of a growing disconnect between inter-county managers and officialdom, both at central level and at the county coalface -- but it also behoves the GAA to connect with its wider audience.

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