THE GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLY
Games restore faith but zero tolerance must be shown to space invaders
REFLECTING on the past week in Gaelic games, it had everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. Let's start with the good by giving credit to all four teams in respect of the show of entertainment provided last Saturday and Sunday.
For once it is great to reflect on all the positives in Gaelic football once again. I honestly felt for a period throughout the summer that my own faith in the game was beginning to wane. That faith has been restored and Gaelic football has been given a much needed injection of life, which is good for the game.
Whilst Jimmy McGuinness and Eamon Fitzmaurice will have already started preparations for the third Sunday in September, Jim Gavin and James Horan will reflect on what might have been.
It was a bad week for both Mayo and Dublin football.
Gavin walked into a knockout blow whilst Horan has reached the end of the road with his Mayo team after four years of knocking on the door.
This is tough time for the Mayo footballers and any pats of the back this week will only cover over the cracks temporarily. Defeats like last weekend for the Mayo players and manager hurt badly. And they will still hurt next week, next year and still hurt in ten years' time. There is not a day that goes by that I do not reflect on missed opportunities in a Dublin shirt. That is the nature of sport and life.
Whilst the history book may not be kind to Horan, I have huge empathy for this Mayo team and for Horan as a manager. He brought every facet of their preparations to a new level, approached every game in positive manner but he could just not find the missing piece of the jigsaw. Mayo will regroup and they will be back under a new guise with a fresh approach.
For Dublin the outlook is different.
Yes, they were caught with a knockout blow but they will be back at the top table next year competing for honours. Gavin will learn more from last weekend that he learnt from any other of his previous ten championship wins.
Dublin simply need the ability to be able to have greater diversity in their game-plan and the fundamentals of protecting the defence when required will have to become a priority.
Conceding three goals in any game can unhinge any team and whilst Dublin escaped against Kerry last year, they have learnt the hard way this year.
Gavin, no doubt, will take time out and then review the year with every detail being analysed and this team will come back better and stronger. With that in mind, I hope that Alan Brogan is part of that team.
I watched from the Hogan Stand last weekend as he stayed on the pitch with his son Jamie to maybe reflect on his last moments on the hallowed turf.
Retirement from a game that you love and that consumes you is a serious decision. Dublin need Alan Brogan and at 32 years-of-age he still has so much to offer the younger generation .
If you are still good enough, you are young enough. I remember many wise heads telling me at the age of 34 that I would be retired long enough. Alan may feel that elements of the preparation and commitment required have become difficult for him, and the grass looks greener on the other side at this very moment. Unfortunately the stable of retirement is a much different place than he may imagine!
Nothing beats playing and nothing beats running out that tunnel to Hill 16 in full voice. Hopefully, Alan will take time to reflect over the winter period and we will see him back in blue next spring.
So let's finish with the ugly from last weekend and it is a serious bone of contention that I have in respect of our games.
The incident at the end of the game when a Mayo supporter entered the pitch to confront referee Cormac Reilly was simply unacceptable regardless of the referee's performance. The GAA have a duty of care to ensure all players and officials are protected.
Mark my words, it is only a matter a time before somebody gets injured as result of a serious incident and there must be a zero tolerance approach from the GAA authorities.
The battle of Donnycarney comes to mind as a lingering example of poor GAA management. Parnell Park against Meath in 2008, there were five sending offs as result of a few melees early in the game.
I deservedly got my marching orders and whilst exiting the pitch, a hot cup of coffee was thrown from the stands and landed a few feet from me.
The coffee had been thrown over the heads of numerous supporters in the stand and the incident could have been a lot more serious if the coffee has not landed near its intended target.
In the days that followed the game, we saw Nicky Brennan then GAA president condemning the players for their actions and we deservedly received suspensions. No investigation was carried out by the GAA in relation to the supporter who threw the coffee. Nothing happened and it was swept under the carpet.
So now we have a glorified 'celebrity' after last week's episode posing for photographs after the event. Quite frankly it's a disgrace and the GAA should lay down a heavy marker this time to avoid any other gobshites thinking it is a good idea to enter the playing arena.
Maybe we can learn from our colleagues in the Australian FL and ensure that any supporter who enters the playing arena or brings the game into disrepute is hit with a significant fine of $5,000. Zero tolerance is needed to protect the players and officials.