By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Ireland’s International Rules tour of Australia was plunged into controversy last week when Graham Geraghty was suspended for the first test after he racially abused an opposing player. Geraghty, who only last month was lifting the Sam Maguire Cup as Meath’s All Ireland winning captain, called teenager Damien Cupido "a black c***".
As if Geraghty’s suspension wasn’t damaging enough, the affair opened a deep rift between Ireland team manager, Colm O’Rourke, and the media covering the series. Journalists believed that at the outset O’Rourke had misled them about the incident.
When Geraghty’s racial slur eventually came to light, the manager insisted that the player had apologised and that no suspension was necessary. However, the GAA president Joe McDonagh, who is in Australia along with the association’s Director General Liam Mulvihill, then intervened and following a lengthy meeting with O’Rourke, the ban was announced.
At the end of a practice game in Melbourne, O’Rourke had been approached by former Dublin footballer, Jim Stynes. O’Rourke was seen in conversation with Stynes, who carved out an outstanding career in Australian Rules after leaving Ireland, and then the manager was seen taking Geraghty aside.
Following a few short words with O’Rourke, Geraghty sought out 17-year-old Cupido, who is of South African origin, and the two players shook hands. Curious at all the tooing and froing, several journalists asked O’Rourke what had been going on. He told them that Stynes had been complaining about some of the Irish tackling.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
But the next day, a local paper, The Melbourne Age, ran a story that an insulting racist comment had been directed by Geraghty toward Cupido. By now aware that the cat was out of the bag, O’Rourke called a press conference during which he insisted that all he had been guilty of was misleading the Irish media.
"If trying to protect Graham Geraghty’s name is the most serious offense I’m
guilty of, then I can live with that," he said.
O’Rourke said Geraghty had apologized and he was adamant that he had not underestimated the seriousness of the incident. The manager also stressed that imposing any suspension on Geraghty would be unnecessary for what was "a throwaway comment."
However, president McDonagh clearly believed that O’Rourke’s response to the
incident was indequate and a day before the first test he called a meeting with incoming president Sean McCague and Mulvihill, along with O’Rourke, team captain John McDermott and Geraghty.
Several hours later, McDonagh announced to the media that Geraghty would be banned from playing in the first test. "For a player who has come out here and who has been barred from playing for his country is something he’ll probably have to live with for the rest of his life," McDonagh said.
The first test may have been relegated in importance, but Ireland ran out impressive winners by 70-62 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a game watched by nearly 65,000 spectators. Played under compromise rules with a round ball and the Australian scoring system, the Irish kicked two goals through Jarlath Fallon and Ciaran Whelan, as well as 16 overs and 10 behinds.
Even though Peter Canavan was heavily marked, Fallon was able to make an impression in attack along with Dermot Earley, while Seamus Moynihan and Finbarr Cullen were the pick of the defense.