Jim Gavin broke the habit of his inter-county lifetime by saying something interesting in his post-match press conference today, slamming the treatment of Diarmuid Connolly in the broadcast media in the aftermath of his pushing a linesman in the Leinster quarter-final against Carlow.
In specific relation to Pat Spillane and Colm O'Rourke, Gavin had this to say after the game:
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...
...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.
Naturally, Gavin's comments sparked debate on The Sunday Game tonight, with panelists Joe Brolly and Dessie Dolan. The entire discussion was dedicated to the comments made by Pat Spillane on the same programme three weeks ago, when reviewing the Connolly incident.
Before we go any further, here's a reminder of what Spillane had to say at the time:
This is a very obvious thing. Diarmuid was infuriated at a sideline decision, not giving the ball back.
The pictures tell it all. A picture tells a thousand words; clearly going to Ciaran Brannigan, the linesman, clearly putting his hand on the sideline man, clearly pushing the linesman, which he’s not entitled to do, clearly with his finger pointed, threatening the linesman.
You prod a bear, you get a reaction. You prod Diarmuid Connolly, you antagonise Diarmuid Connolly, and you always get a reaction.
He put his hands on the linesman, he pushed the linesman back, and a finger pointed in somebody’s face sounds to me like threatening. Bottom line, its Rule 5 - minor physical interference.It carries a penalty of 12 weeks.
And here is footage of Spillane's comments on the issue:
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) June 5, 2017
Dessie Dolan and Joe Brolly both agreed that Spillane was overly harsh in his criticism of Connolly.
Dolan spoke first, drawing attention to the fact that Spillane is from Kerry, saying that the criticism "looks a little pointed". Brolly then jumped him to offer his opinion:
He[Spillane] is a big boy, and he knows what he said. Of course Diarmuid shouldn't have touched the official, but at that stage, the officials had not taken any action in relation to it, and it was in the context of Connolly being held in the way that he was.
You have to say, it was like watching counsel for the prosecution. Pat had everything on but his Kerry blazer and his Kerry tie. I thought to myself after, the CCCC are going to act here.
Des Cahill then asked whether Brolly was blaming Spillane for Connolly's suspension, he responded by drawing attention to the fact that Spillane delivered his analysis in the context of the referee and linesman not taking action at the time, which is deemed to be their making a judgement on the issue.
JB: At that stage, you were expecting that the Dubs could think, 'that's the end of the matter'. But once it had been jumped on - and it looked to me that Pat was reading out a script - and as soon as I watched it, I thought, they will have to go for him now.
DC: Well Pat had notes, I was here with him, most of our pundits have notes. But is unfair to Pat, who is not here, in that Pat pointed out that Diarmuid did put his hand on the linesman?
JB: He did put his hand on the official. But when you play it back, and slow it down, and talk of his past record. Let me put it to you this way. Imagine if that had been Colm Cooper. Your first reaction would have been the same: 'Are the officials not going to protect him? There are three men pushing, shunting him at the sideline. We'd be saying, 'do players like this not deserve protection?
But because it is Diarmuid Connolly, and I think Pat bought into it, but there's a feeling that it is open season on Diarmuid. I did think it was over the top, I have to say. He is entitled to his opinion, but I strongly disagreed with it.
Dessie Dolan rejoined to highlight the influence pundits like Brolly, Colm O'Rourke and Spillane have in the GAA, finishing off with this:
I felt that night it was pointed toward Diarmuid Connolly getting a suspension.
Naturally, the debate over Jim Gavin's debating the debate over Diarmuid Connolly sparked, er, debate.
So the lads established that Diarmuid Connolly was only suspended because of Pat Spillane's comments... Ye're havin a laugh. #thesundaygame
— Mike Quirke (@Mike_Quirke) June 25, 2017
So Joe Brolly is blaming Pat Spilliane for Diarmuid Connolly's suspension?! The blame lies with Diarmuid Connolly & no-one else #SundayGame
— Mary (@Mc1988) June 25, 2017
— Ben McKiernan (@benji_mck) June 25, 2017
In the list of potentially unfair statements made on Sunday Game over the years, what Spillane said about Connolly wouldn't get in top half
— aidan o'hara (@oharaa) June 25, 2017
Watching Ed Sheeran, who is unlistenable, rather than wrecking my head with more Diarmuid Connolly guff.
— Kieran Cunningham (@KCsixtyseven) June 25, 2017