Monday 18 December 2017

Roche's Point

JIM GAVIN after Dublin's O'Byrne Cup victory over Kildare: "I'm very happy with our discipline." Gavin after their league win over Donegal: "We're very happy with how our players held their discipline." Finally, after last Sunday's league defeat to Kerry, Gavin was again "very pleased" with his players "in terms of discipline."

Spot a recurring theme?

Well, either the Dublin manager keeps being asked the same question by pesky, headline-seeking journalists; or those questions are in direct response to on-field events; or maybe both explanations apply.

Gavin's mantra, meanwhile, suggests the following: "Nothing to report here, look away ..."

For the record, when it comes to the matches that matter, Dublin don't have a disciplinary issue. They play the game hard and fast but mostly in a positive manner. But they do have an early-season issue - the statistics tell us so.

This problem predated Gavin's appointment (they suffered a rush of reds and one retrospective suspension during Pat Gilroy's last league campaign in 2012) but it hasn't abated in the three years since.


The early weeks of Gavin's tenure were marked by three straight red cards: Denis Bastick in the O'Byrne Cup final, Michael Darragh Macauley against Kerry, Ger Brennan against Mayo.

Last season began with a Paul Flynn sending-off and an eight-week ban for Jason Whelan arising from a feisty O'Byrne Cup date with DCU; then came straight reds for Sean George (Kerry), Philly McMahon (Derry) and Stephen Cluxton (Mayo) plus a harsh double-yellow for Rory O'Carroll (Tyrone).

The trilogy of Gavin quotes above stem from the O'Byrne Cup final against Kildare, when Macauley shipped a straight red; that fractious league encounter with Donegal when Kevin McManamon departed for two yellows (relatively tame infractions compared to the running battles elsewhere); and then Sunday's loss in Killarney, when the rap sheet read five yellow cards, two blacks and one red.


Afterwards, Gavin suggested some of Eddie Kinsella's cards were "a bit reactionary" and pointedly praised his players for getting "straight back up" after taking a hit instead of trying to influence the referee.

However, on reviewing the tape, surely he will accept Mick Fitzsimons has zero cause to appeal his straight red, having rushed to join an injury-time melee not of his making with a double-armed lunge at Fionn Fitzgerald? Moreover, the notion that Fitzgerald "seemed to go down quite quickly" doesn't stand up to DVD scrutiny, instead underlining how quickly he got back to his feet.

Meanwhile, the black cards brandished to Bastick and McMahon were both deserving, even if Kieran Donaghy wasn't blameless as he was simultaneously pulling Bastick's jersey under a throw-ball. Curiously, though, these were Dublin's first black cards in league or championship after 16 games without one. That suggests a well-drilled team capable of playing to the rules ... if only they could curtail the red mist.

One final point: the post-match reaction of partisan fans to a referee does not "speak volumes".

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