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  • Opinion: The Problem With Jim Gavin's Comments? He Has Undermined His Own Player

Opinion: The Problem With Jim Gavin's Comments? He Has Undermined His Own Player

Opinion: The Problem With Jim Gavin's Comments? He Has Undermined His Own Player
By Gavin Cooney Updated

Jim Gavin refused to conduct one-on-one broadcast interviews yesterday, but Dublin treating the media with suspicion is nothing new. As a player, Brian Mullins once told the assembled media that he was making "no comment...and you can't quote me on that".

Dublin's colonisation of the Leinster Championship has largely left tongues dry and mouths parched for want of something to talk about in recent years, with the latest poor victim to stumble in front of Dublin's firing squad usually sparking some talk of the 'C' word, and little else. (Colm O'Rourke the latest to argue for a Championship restructure).

This time, however, from the occasion of Dublin's biggest win of Jim Gavin's reign did spring something of note, and from the unlikeliest of sources: Gavin's press conference.

It came with a degree of irony, too: having declined one-on-one interviews with the broadcast media, Gavin went about giving them more to chew over than he has ever done in the past. He did, however, air his grievances in his press briefing, to which the broadcast  media were invited to attend:

What concerns me is how his good name was attacked. Before we even saw the referee's report, we have the national broadcaster, both Pat Spillane and Colm O'Rourke, particularly Pat, who had a pre-determined statement. We saw the rulebook being read out against him on Sky Sports. Supporters have come to me and asked me what's going on, and why is this imbalance happening. I am struggling to give them a balanced and proportionate opinion to them.

It was my decision to pursue with the CHC, to get their opinion on it. We received advice from senior counsel that, if this went to arbitration, this case wouldn't hold. Diarmuid didn't want that to happen, he wanted to move on in the best interests of the team, that's what he decided to do.

Within 24 hours, before the referee's report had been signed off, there was a...not a media campaign, but it got a lot of traction in the media, and more importantly, [regarding] the right he has as an individual in the Republic, I think his good name was certainly attacked.

Gavin's comments are problematic, but let's firstly clarify what doesn't stand up in response: complaints from the meeja. From a media standpoint, these developments were far preferable to another drab 90-second performance featuring "Westmeath are a serious team" and a prosaic preponderance on 'process'.

He also didn't block anything: he fielded questions from all outlets in the post-match presser, RTE included.

But why did the Dublin manager break the habit of an inter-county lifetime and feel the need to say something? It is highly questionable whether Connolly's good name was attacked in the analysis of the incident, as Gavin suggests. As he says, Sky Sports displayed the rulebook on screen: it is not possible to found a discussion on a less biased bedrock.

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The extent of Pat Spillane's "pre-determined statement" was a discussion of the rule, and the adding of an audio description to the footage of the incident. His only true deviation was to say, "You prod a bear, you get a reaction. You prod Diarmuid Connolly, you antagonise Diarmuid Connolly, and you always get a reaction". Hardly a hysterical overreaction.

The subsequent debate about Gavin's debating the initial debate over Connolly (try to keep up with that!) is an indictment of much of the discourse around Gaelic football, and emblematic of the skewed priorities around the game today.

An incident that interrogates issues of respect for officials - a fundamental element of the playing of Gaelic games at all levels every day, which in itself addresses wider aspects including Irish culture and society - has been reduced to parochial nonsense, portrayed as some primal, cute hoor Kerry trickery leveraging a future date with Dublin.

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Gavin rails against the discussion of the incident prior to the publication of the referee's report but this is both a natural corollary of simply being on television, and is also not particularly relevant.

The report may have led to Connolly avoiding suspension: if the referee had excluded the incident from said report, he would have been deemed to have made a judgement on the incident at the time, and the CCCC would have been unable to act. As it happens, it was included, meaning the CCCC had the power to hand out a suspension.

Nothing in the referee's report would have cleared Connolly of transgressing, however. The video footage is self-evident.

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Regarding the broadcast of the footage: Dublin's high level of exposure on TV is one of the reasons they can list 13 official partners on their website: Sometimes, the game's the game.

We can speculate as to why he spoke. It may have been done with a view to inculcating some kind of siege mentality, to focus perhaps meandering minds during the Leinster Championship. Regardless of his intention, there's an obvious problem with ~Gavin's comments: he is undermining Connolly by making them.

As Gavin eludes to, it was Connolly's wish to move on: Gavin brought things as far as the CHC, with no further appeal pursued under the player's wishes to move on.

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These comments, however, simply drag it back into public discourse, and after a Sunday which featured five games - four of them untelevised qualifiers, the other a predictable, one-sided bore - an incident which occurred three weeks ago will once again find tenancy across newspapers, radio stations, and Reputable Irish Sports Websites over the coming days.

Connolly did the right thing in dropping the case. His manager hasn't done right by him by dredging it up again.

See Also: Controversy In Féile Underage Game Ends With Sit-In Protest In Front Of GAA President

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