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Club final chaos throws up questions


ANOTHER FINE MESS Kilmacud Crokes’ Shane Walsh and Craig Dias lift the Andy Merrigan Cup after their side’s victory in the All-Ireland Senior Club FC Final at Croke Park recently. Pic: Sportsfile

The way I see it
Ger Flanagan

I REMAIN in many minds about how the All-Ireland club final debacle should be solved.
There have been so many conflicting opinions shared from figures of great stature within the organisation over the past week that this columnist has changed his own more than once.
The whole affair is going to forever tar Kilmacud’s win over Glen and that’s a shame.
But the fallout has been so extreme and so polarised it’s hard to see how it won’t.
And it’s not over yet; the ramifications this could have will be trickling down the organisation for some time yet.
There are so many layers to the situation and how the impasse occurred that it just adds to the complexity.
Through a black and white lense there was a rule clearly broken and, by the letter of the law, there should be a replay.
It’s the rule and that law that is supposed to uphold the integrity of the game. Any blatant breaking of those, of course, brings the game into disrepute.
However, the problem with the GAA rulebook is that more than one rule is surrounded by a large grey cloud, meaning it is often poorly-enforced and clearly not fit for purpose.
It’s not the first time an issue like this has arisen around the GAA rule book and it won’t be the last.
But the fine print and concreting of rules and regulations is for people with much more intellectual ability than yours truly, and that perspective is one I’ve tried to avoid overplaying in my head.
The perspective that resonates with me is from a player’s point of view; what am I thinking if I’m a Glen player and, furthermore, if I was a Crokes player?
Well, firstly, I can imagine the celebrations or the drowning of sorrows had some weird vibes about them last week with this mess hanging over them like the fear after three days on the beer.  
The prospect of an All-Ireland final replay would be extremely difficult to reinvigorate yourself both mentally and physically for.
If I’m a Glen player this week the last thing I would want is a replay. We were beaten by a better team on the day, without or without an extra man on the last play.
Furthermore, the extra player on the field had little or no involvement in the final play other than circumstantial. This would not be considered a strong mitigation in a court of law, I know, but it’s how I would like to think I’d feel.
The game has been played, the final whistle blown and everything was left on the field. Winning an All-Ireland title in a boardroom on a technicality wouldn’t interest me and I’d rather put it behind me and enjoy my rest after a long season.
If I was wearing the Kilmacud Crokes jersey, I’d adopt the exact same stance they did last week and refuse to replay the game. All being said, the responsibility is on the officials to ensure the rules are enforced and while the blame shouldn’t fall on them either, it’s not Crokes’ problem.
They were the better team on the day and deservedly won.
Not to mention the fact many of their players have jetted off on holidays – including Shane Walsh who supposedly headed Down Under for a few weeks R&R.
It was reported last week that Kilmacud would rather ‘give the trophy back’ than play a replay and it was a strong stance to take.
Any drop of integrity will vanish from the competition if the GAA hand the trophy over to Glen. Would the Derry champions feel they warranted the honour if that is the case?
I’d be worried if they did.
Plus, you can’t hide away from the comments of Glen manager Malachy O’Rourke after the game. An appeal, he said, wasn’t how he does business and he didn’t even want to entertain the idea.
Maybe he said it as a method of deflection, but he also added that he felt it wasn’t going to be the club’s perspective either.
Of course there is much more in play here than the players and their opinions. The Glen supporters will rightly feel aggrieved and it’s believed they played a big role in the club’s decision to appeal.
Such was the coverage of the issue in the preceding days, a cocktail of hurt from the defeat and wrongdoing from the incident, shaken and served on the rocks with some confirmation bias, would have evoked some strong reactions.
The GAA’s reluctance to act and nip the situation in the bud at the first opportunity only fanned the flames. They decided to follow the letter of the law - which showed a serious lack of leadership - and look where it has landed them.
Did they try and play a bluff, thinking Glen wouldn’t appeal on the back of O’Rourke’s comments only for their hand of two and seven off-suit to be called?
Ultimately, a decision has to be made and I think there should be no replay.
This should be used as a case study and motivation to sit down and introduce stricter policies and more stringent rules around substitutions, as well as other rule book grey areas, of which there are plenty.
It needs an acknowledgement on the GAA that the incident was in breach of the rules and an investigation into how it happened. Followed by a subsequent response to ensure it won’t happen again.
Shakespeare himself wouldn’t be able to pen such drama.


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