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Law and order

Kevin McStay
derek walsh
WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE Mayo’s Derek Walsh finds himself in the middle of a Carlow sandwich of Craig Doyle and Ruairi Dunbar during the Christy Ring Cup semi-final at McHale Park, Castlebar last Saturday. Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Law and order, Boston style

Kevin McStayKevin McStay
THIS week finds me holed up in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. A little while resting and reading with the sun on your back is the perfect mid-season tonic for the harangued columnist. Now that August is almost upon us, first stop Croke Park next Saturday, the championship pace is relentless until late September when the winners will take all.
You could be in any mid-sized city in England, as Boston’s history demands a very english state capital. Small and compact, the city is easily navigated, which means I get lost only twice per day. The Boston way of life, its architecture, parks public transport and place names gives one a sense of not having wandered too far from your own shoreline. And through the wonderful wireless medium we can enjoy another type of ‘hot-spot’ and log on to the Internet and Ireland.com.
And so, other than the beautiful sunshine, there are times we can believe we are only across the road and will be back this evening for the tea. And yet we are not in Ireland and a crucial difference is their attitude to laws, regulations, rules and customs.
Bostonians are exposed to state laws and rules that we Irish might feel are excessive. Every ten metres you are blitzed with yet more signage in big red letters; don’t do this, don’t do that. You are reminded of the rules of the road continuously and when we go for a trip on the bay, the signs pop out of the water telling us to stay in lane, observe the speed limits, life-vests must be worn, no drinking on board.
There is a key reason why the citizens take a deep breath, park their frustration and comply: the Traffic Police and the Bay Police mean business and will enforce the law. Everybody is anonymous when it comes to sanction. Do the crime, do the time. 
Boston is currently the sports capital of the world, home to the 2008 World basketball champions (Boston Celtics) while the Red Sox brought home the World Series of baseball last year and starts this new season favourites to retain. The New England Patriots really should be the Superbowl champions, a last minute touchdown scuppered their perfect winning season.
Yet, when I strayed onto ESPN the other night the pictures were not of victory laps and mayoral receptions for all these world champions but of an unprecedented brawl from the women’s professional basketball league.
Each sport has a commissioner and in discussions with citing officers they come up with the sanction. Obviously there are protocols but the commissioner gave us all the very strong message that belated apologies and mitigation were far from his mind when they sat to resolve the various issues.
It put me to wondering about sportsmanship, these were young ladies after all, and why the notion of playing within the rules of any sport has become such a dated and naïve concept these days? One can have a degree of understanding when it comes to the strictly professional arenas; these athletes are playing for their wages and in some instances the need to put food on the table for their children.
But surely the amateur should be a different fish, a pool where there is time and space to enjoy the game for what it is. Many of the GAA summer headlines have concerned the behaviour of management (we had a management member banned for head-butting an opposition player), players, and GAA officials backing the cases to higher authority even though they are, in many instances, indefensible. Where is this all going?
A few weeks ago we looked at the Colin Moran case (we still have no idea why he got off), last week it was Paul Galvin. Do you recall his heart-felt apology on primetime television? He was able to secure time on the Six-One news to admit his wrongdoing, apologise wholeheartedly, and present an image of a contrite and sorry footballer that was coming clean. Once the proposed punishment was announced he raced for the hearings angle. Very little sense now that he had been ashamed of his actions. And then he raced from Billy to Jack until a loophole was secured.
See, there is a distinct lack of sportsmanship in our games these days. I read an interview with Dublin’s Bryan Cullen recently where he accepted that ‘sledging’ (verbal sneering and intimidation during play, after misses and when scoring) is part and parcel of the modern game and most players don’t have a problem with it.
Do you ever see another player helping an opponent off the ground following an injury or tumble? Could you imagine him asking of his health? Remember the days when stars on a losing side might be shouldered from a field?
Nowadays, there is cheating (grabbing opponent’s hands to con a ref, stealing yardage on frees, looking to have other players booked), diving, contesting obvious wides and sideline balls, trash-talking referees and whatever you are having yourself.
A few weeks ago there was a sense Nickey Brennan had identified a suitable legacy for his presidency. Indiscipline on and off the playing fields of Gaelic games has been a thorny issue for decades and inextricably linked to the Irishman’s dislike for rules and regulations in just about any walk of life you care to mention.
Despite a willingness by so-called staunch members to exhaust all avenues even though the incident is pretty blatant, the hope was the new procedures and protocols would smooth the way to a new ethos of acceptance. But today the process appears to be more or less busted.
Is it fair and reasonable to undermine the key element of a framework so that a player is vindicated despite both hearings and appeals layers being exhausted? Perhaps the fault lies with an association that insists the player is given every opportunity to appeal when in fact the balance should have been weighted towards the good of the association. In the times we live in, it appears the individual must always be placed in the centre.
But if you care to read the opus that is the ‘Paul Finlay v DRA’ decision (Finlay verbally abused the referee) you will get a real sense of just how far people and units are willing to go to get an edge.
There is a simple maxim for the truly calm sportsman: discipline yourself and others will not have to. These boys wouldn’t last too long here in Massachusetts.

A QUICK WORD on the Round 3 Qualifier. We got the toughest draw but at least the venue is Croke Park and the wide spaces should suit our athleticism. The health bulletins are reasonable but at this stage identifying your best and fittest 20 for HQ action is the priority.
The season is topsy-turvy and until we secure the next win it will all be a bit shapeless; that’s the Qualifier Road. Because I have no team to hand and Tyrone have yet to announce, speculation is redundant.
But if we got over the disappointment of the Connacht final defeat and if we have kicked on in training, then Tyrone are no world-beaters as I see things.
Problem is we will not know how we have emerged until 10 or 15 minutes into the game. The programme of three matches in Croke Park looks like a good day’s sport so hopefully Mayo supporters will travel. The last time we matched-up we won against the head. This time it would hardly merit a shocked look if we prevail. But for now, we will just have to wait…