Category: Archive

Compromised Rules

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The violent scenes in the first quarter were no worse than some that have already marred the 20-plus years of this fabricated contest. Eugene McGee, the former All Ireland winning manager with Offaly, said he’d spent a lifetime watching the same sort of intimidation and bad blood on the GAA fields of Ireland. McGee certainly didn’t like what he saw, but he wasn’t pretending it was something out of the ordinary.
Elsewhere, there were complaints the Irish players had been targeted, roughed up, taken out physically. “Unacceptable”, spat an enraged manager Sean Boylan who added that the Australian viewpoint that the home team had sparked off the violence was simply “bullshit”.
As for Ireland’s captain, Kieran McGeeney, he might have been less emotional than Boylan, but he had no doubt which set of players was at fault. “I don’t cry about getting beaten, but if you want to box, you want to box, we’ll put on our gloves or we’ll go bare knuckle. Or we play football.”
While a series of melees broke out in the opening minutes, a tackle which left Graham Geraghty unconscious and needing subsequent hospital treatment was the last straw for Boylan. At one point, he decided not to send his team back out for the second quarter, and only relented when the players told him they wanted to finish the match.
In one sense, Boylan cannot be the best arbiter of what went on in front of just over 80,000 spectators. He was too involved, too subjective in his judgment calls as both teams stepped over the line of what was acceptable. If the tackle on Geraghty was fair enough in the context of the rules, it is certain that the Meath player was specifically targeted by the Aussies following an incident when he was alleged to have kneed an opponent in the head during the first test.
What was more disappointing was the fact that Australia were allowed to score a goal when a fight among several players was in full flow, and that despite the violent scenes, no one was sent off.
Then, what were the people who have watched this hybrid of Gaelic football and Aussie Rules grow from clumsy infant into rebellious teenager expecting? Australia were trailing by eight points going into the second game, and in order to win, they had to exert pressure in the one area they have always been superior to the Irish.
Professional athletes who are the elite in a sport that places a high premium on physical conditioning and aggression are invariably going to lord it over amateurs when football is sacrificed in favor of a punch-up. And with International Rules, it has been ever thus.
In the week before last Sunday’s game which the Australians won easily by 69-31 to clinch the series by 109-79, there had been ominous noises from the visitors that they were out to settle a few scores. Still, the Aussie manager, Kevin Sheedy, reckoned Ireland were the aggressors, just as they had been in the first test.
Even if some of the scenes were disgraceful, it’s not as if the GAA should be recoiling in horror. The association’s president, Nickey Brennan, said that what happened in the first quarter was “completely unacceptable”, but he wasn’t going to be drawn on any questions regarding the future of the series.
A passionate Boylan can be excused for raging at the Aussie excesses, but the truth is that the GAA also has a discipline problem. Only recently, it appeared that the highly talented Joe Canning had been targeted for some rough treatment in the Galway hurling final, and afterwards Canning even suggested that he was thinking about quitting the sport in disgust.
There is intimidation on GAA fields, there is cowardly violence on GAA fields, it’s just that last Sunday, the spotlight was on Croke Park, and the Aussies got most of the blame. Sheedy was having no time for anyone who dared to suggest that that the series should be discontinued, and directed most of his ire at the Irish media. “Every time Australia win, the series is coming to an end. Unbelievable — you’re the greatest conmen I’ve ever met.”
Surely, in the wake of another International Rules debacle, it is time to put this mongrel of a contest to bed for good. And time for the GAA to clean up its own act.

Irish soccer stars top
underachievers’ league
Roy Keane set the example for the modern Irish soccer player, but not too many have been able to follow. Admittedly, Keane had exceptional drive, determination, and a will to win which put so many of his teammates in the shade.
But at one stage, there were a couple of players who appeared to have the right stuff to lead both their clubs and country to great things. Damien Duff and Robbie Keane were never going to mentally as tough as Roy Keane, but they had more talent.
Robbie Keane is the Ireland captain, and at times he has been asked to captain his club, Tottenham Hotspur in England. He has scored goals, but he has also underachieved. As the international team craves stability and leadership under its woefully inexperienced manager, Steve Staunton, there has been no evidence that Keane will turn provider.
Duff, meanwhile, still has the sort of skill and elegance that can transform any game, yet he too is in something of a trough. Where once he appeared to be a key component in the Chelsea side that had won the English Premiership, he was soon regarded as surplus to requirements.
Duff could probably have moved to Liverpool who were European champions in 2005, and who have an astute coach in the Spaniard Rafa Benitez, but instead, he opted for Newcastle. Now, he is part of a team that is second from bottom of the Premiership, and seemingly going nowhere.
Duff is not playing to his potential, neither is Robbie Keane, and Roy Keane has retired to manage Sunderland in the English Championship. There is precious little to celebrate in Irish soccer right now, and not even that much to gossip about as Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy have gone and kissed and made up.
The two protagonists of the most notorious row in Irish sport during the 2002 World Cup finals, neither had spoken to the other since McCarthy sent Keane home. But McCarthy, formerly manager of Sunderland, and now in charge at Wolves, contacted Keane about a player he was interested in buying.
“We did chat about what had gone on before, and it’s nice to put those things to bed,” said Keane. “I’m not going to go into the conversation. It’s done and dusted. I was quite happy, and Mick was, so that’s the end of it I suppose. It’s good to move on in life.”
Unfortunately for us in the media, Roy Keane has agreed to move on. The Saipan saga is finally over. If only Robbie Keane and Damien Duff could move on in their careers.

Ruggers want good start
to international season
The stakes are even higher than usual for Ireland’s rugby team as it prepares for the first international of the season against South Africa at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
On the evidence of last weekend when England were crushed 40-21 by a New Zealand side that didn’t even have to move up into top gear, and when Wales drew 29-29 with an under-strength Australia in Cardiff, the Irish appear at this early stage to be the second strongest of the European nations after France.
Certainly, England – World Cup winners in 2003 — are high on inexperience and short on self-belief. At times, they actually performed reasonably well against New Zealand, but they were simply outclassed in every department.
Ireland go into the South Africa game with no injury worries, and coach Eddie O’Sullivan will again play all his top guns against Australia a week later, before giving some of his back-up players an opportunity against the Pacific Islands.
Even if these autumn matches are not the be-all and end-all in terms of who will prosper in the Six Nations, and then at the World Cup finals in a year’s time, the Irish can lay down a marker over the next fortnight.
With a much more settled line-up than the English, and more firepower in the forwards than Wales, Scotland and Italy, a tilt at the elusive Grand Slam, which goes to the country that wins every game in the Six Nations, is a distinct possibility.
Ireland play France next February in the first ever rugby game at Croke Park, and the significance of the occasion, as well as the venue itself, could be enough to produce a victory.
In the meantime, wins over South Africa and Australia will establish a foundation for what could be a memorable year for Irish rugby.

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