Mayo – dismantling appalling GAA structures

De Facto

INSPIRATIONAL Lee Keegan, pictured in action against Dean Rock in the recent All-Ireland semi-final, was a joy to watch. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

The All-Ireland football semi-final was a most sweet victory. It’s always good to win but to beat the Dubs in such fashion is as sweet as it gets – almost! There’s one more hurdle before sweetness releases its full essence.
Mayo played as a team, not just a team of fifteen but a team panel. All were outstanding, players and backroom supporting members and especially manager James Horan. Talk about being the King of Cool! Mr Consulate himself (not a very PC title that will be totally lost on the young ‘uns!)   
Lee Keegan was his inspirational self. What a joy to watch. What a man to never give up. What a leader. He is football quintessence. He is all that’s good about a game that is embedded in our blood. He pulses Gaelic perfection. Long may he run.
Diarmuid O’Connor’s outstretched leg gave rise to numerous and momentous comments. Balla native Colin Sheridan’s (also of this paper) article in The Irish Examiner is worth checking out. It is as beautiful a piece of writing that you will read, especially if you have an emotional investment in the Mayo football team. It was published online on Sunday, August 15, under the title ‘If Mayo were born broken, then they have truly lived by mending’.
Eoghan McLaughlin paid the price for GAA arrogance, bullyboy tactics and sheer Dublin hubris. For too long everyone has accepted the thuggery that Dublin players mete out when it suits them, none more so than when they know they are being beaten. It is anything but sportsmanlike. They have dragged the game of Gaelic into the mud, aided and abetted by the blind-eye politics that litter Croke Park officialdom.
We all know that GAA HQ supports a strong Dublin team. It means more money, simple as that. What use is it to the GAA if Leitrim win the All-Ireland? Carlow? Fermanagh? The GAA men-in-suits have long surpassed any such hopes. They are thinking of the bottom line – pounds, shillings and pence – typical bottom feeders.
Apart from the ritual burning at the stake in Dublin 3 of the ethos of what Gaelic football really is, the other sad development is the acceptance of dirty tactics as practiced by several GAA teams, including Dublin and Kerry. Off the ball fouls, abuse and tackles like John Small’s on Eoghan McLaughlin have no place in Gaelic football. Their tolerance is to be abhorred.
Small’s hit on McLaughlin was a perfect example of the state of GAA 2021 style. It is the win at all costs mantra adopted by Dublin and their ilk. Not too long ago in another final when it looked like Mayo could equalise Dublin went about pulling down as many players as they could off the ball. Sportsmanship? Dream on.    
The sad part is that neither referees nor Croke Park committees engage in proper follow-up to stamp out such actions and ensure that they are not allowed to become part of the game. Then there’s the question of the TMO – television match official. Why not introduce it into GAA matches?
It would have dealt effectively, efficiently and immediately with the Small/McLaughlin incident. Instead it just festers and drags on. It would also deal with ongoing off the ball incidents that Dublin players excel in. Gaelic players do not get paid for their time; they invest in the game for the glory of their respective counties. The least support they should be offered is an assurance that their games will be played with the highest standard of safety and safety supports.
That thinking doesn’t auger well with the men-in-suits or some backroom boys whose only intent is for the ‘big teams’ to win at any cost. Mayo and other teams with semblances of decency and sportsmanship have a long way to go to convince Dublin 3 officials how the game should be promoted. Beating Dublin was one way of dismantling appalling GAA structures.
Everyone starts out playing with good intentions. The John Smalls of every GAA team also need protection from the current negative, destructive mentality that is expected of them and prevails in GAA circles. We owe that protection to all GAA players.