Anxious wait for squabbling players
Half-time row could put Lilies and Monaghan in the dock
ANOTHER mass melee at a GAA venue, generating more negative headlines, is likely to prompt further action from Croke Park disciplinary chiefs - this time investigating the squabble that erupted between Monaghan and Kildare players in Clones yesterday.
While TV footage of the flashpoint revealed there was far more pushing and shoving than clenched fists involved, RTE pundit Colm O'Rourke summed it up succinctly on 'League Sunday' last night when he lamented: "It just looks awful".
The timing could hardly have been worse either, coming just weeks after the admittedly uglier brawl between Derrytresk and Dromid Pearses during their All-Ireland club JFC semi-final in Portlaoise.
Kildare have already paid a price for yesterday's disciplinary breakdown, coming right on half-time in their NFL clash. Defender Brian Flanagan was the only player red-carded and this left the visitors with an insurmountable task of reeling in a three-point half-time deficit with just 14 men.
TV replays showed Flanagan getting embroiled with Monaghan's Paul Finlay. Again to quote O'Rourke, "what he does is harmless enough, he makes a swipe at Paul Finlay" ... but the net result was a straight red when referee Joe McQuillan took action before the start of the second half.
Barring a successful appeal, Flanagan will consequently miss Kildare's next Division Two outing away to Meath on March 3.
Three other players - Kildare's Pádraig O'Neill and Monaghan duo Dessie Mone and Dick Clerkin - were also yellow-carded for their part in the squabble, and it remains to be seen if the CCCC feels further investigation is warranted.
Afterwards, Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney made a veiled reference to a potential trial-by-media when he told reporters: "Depends on what you probably say. There were a couple of incidents this year that you didn't report on. They weren't investigated. Some you do report on."
On the subject of what actually happened, McGeeney gave the following synopsis: "There seemed to be something happening on the pitch, then it went to the sideline, and then people were shouting at each other going into the tunnel.
"It's hard to know what to say when those things are happening. There's a lot of testosterone flowing out there. People don't want to be seen to be backing down."
McGeeney himself got briefly caught up as two highly-charged teams entered the tunnel simultaneously. TV replays show him appearing to have words with Clerkin before another unidentified Monaghan person, wearing tracksuit and hat, intervenes and pushes the Kildare manager.
His Monaghan counterpart, Eamonn McEneaney, said: "I thought it was an awful lot of pushing and shoving from what I could see. Again you don't want to see them things. I didn't see a whole pile; I just wanted to get the boys off the field and into the dressing room."
The row took place in front of the GAA's watching director-general, Páraic Duffy, and was almost certain to come up for discussion at today's scheduled CCCC meeting.
"It's the last thing the GAA needs after Derrytresk and Dromid Pearses - the image is awful," Colm O'Rourke commented. He said the only way to tackle this recurring melee problem is for the GAA to "get serious about having some deterrents", with "hefty suspensions" for players who join the initial incident.
Fellow pundit Kevin McStay suggested that the GAA "never really" reaches zero tolerance when it comes to imposing sanctions. "Then we get halfway up, the hearing or the appeal dilutes it almost immediately - and the players know this," he concluded.