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From Handbags To GBH - The Five Stages Of The Sporting Dust-Up

From Handbags To GBH - The Five Stages Of The Sporting Dust-Up
Maurice Brosnan
By Maurice Brosnan
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The humble sporting dust-up. Commentators denounce them as the event 'nobody wants to see' despite the fact everybody wants to see them. Tensions can overspill in various forms and in varying degrees of intensity, from throwing shapes to full-blown battery. A by-product of sport's competitiveness is its frequent devolution into a fracas, which depending on their vigour can be a delightful spectacle or an unnecessary barrage. It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.

In a week when we witnessed an almighty shemozzle over in America, we've decided to chart the gradual escalation of these incidents.


"They look like the Roman army on the march" 

The most important aspect of the shemozzle is the optics of it. You don't necessarily have to do anything, you just have to be seen trying to do something. 'The Mill at the Hill' was a classic example prior to the Mayo and Dublin All-Ireland semi-final in 2006. Mayo's mind games spilled over to a fairly uneventful face-off.

Props to Ciaran Whelan for having his team-mates restrain him in the classic "hold me back! hold me back!" The Mayo dietitian got skulled by a loose football and Dublin manager Paul Caffrey barged Mayo selector John Morrison in the back, but by in large, it was an exhibition in shape-throwing and chest-beating.




Would this list really be complete without featuring Diego Costa?

The Chelsea and Spurs matchup last year saw 12 bookings and culminated in a significant touchline brawl. It was the second incident of such a nature in the game, with an earlier altercation also producing some alleged eye-gouges. While giving the illusion of a large group-hug the mass melee gives the close quarters that an individual such as Costa thrives in.


Side-line brawls are tricky in that you're never quite sure where to look and are often instigated by one distinct action. Case in point, Mike Evans:





If Costa is a necessity, Paul Galvin is a certainty. The Kerryman was no stranger to controversy and never one to back down. He was on the receiving end of a box to the jaw here, yet hardly flinched.




The 2011 Munster v Cardiff Blues brawl is an excellent case study for various reasons. It demonstrates precisely how the shemozzle can escalate, from two individuals trading off, to unloading punches, to everyone else piling in. Two front-rows exchanging blows is as engrossing as heavyweight boxers going toe to toe, blow for blow. Excellent work from O'Connell and O'Gara in observing the number one rule in shemozzle intervention, never try to hinder your team-mate as it leaves him open for a sucker-punch. If breaking up a brawl, pull back the opposition.

Munster are excellent exponents of the team-mate intervention approach. During Munster's Heineken Cup clash with Clermont, O'Callaghan's pursuit of Jamie Cudmore after he unleashed haymakers on his captain and second-row partner Paul O'Connell is commendable.



Grievous bodily harm 

The holy trinity of over-the-top sporting brawls come from three renowned sporting arenas: Detriot, Philadelphia and Croke Park.


The longest suspension in NBA history came in what is now known as 'the Malice at the Palace.' Almost $10 million in fines and 146 games in combined suspensions came after the 2004 Pacers v Pistons brawl that incorporated players, coaches and even fans.

Hockey is great for its shemozzles. Commentators announce when they're about to happen and television companies display their stats on the screen like it was planned. Players go at it without interruption and in the case of this Philadelphia Flyers–Ottawa Senators game there was literally more fighting than hockey as the entire game was dominated by punch-ups.

The next time someone criticises Pat Spillane's punditry, show them this clip. It's Gary Neville-esque in its attention to detail and the thorough breakdown of the 1996 Mayo Meath brawl.

SEE ALSO: Michael Darragh MacAuley Set To Join Basketball Ireland's Super League



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