Brawl gives GAA an opportunity to crack down on indiscipline

Armagh and Galway brought shame on Croke Park for their ugly outburst at the end of the All-Ireland quarter-final
Brawl gives GAA an opportunity to crack down on indiscipline

26 June 2022; Players and officials from both sides become embroiled as they make their way to the dressing rooms after full time ended in a draw at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Armagh and Galway at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

UP until tea-time last Sunday the name of Tiernan Kelly meant nothing to those outside Armagh.

Now, the world knows about the guy who tried to help Galway’s Damien Comer with his contact lenses, as one wag described it.

Kelly is an extended member of the county panel, you know the guys who sit together at the back of the stand during games and aren’t really involved even though they appear to be.

Only he can explain why he was on the pitch at Croke Park in the first instance and the reasons for his dangerous assault on the Galway forward.

The reaction of his club, Clann Eireann, the current Armagh champions, to the expected abuse Kelly was receiving on social media came via a prepared statement and it spoke volumes about the current malaise not only in terms of GAA discipline or sport for that matter, but society as a whole.

They made him out to be almost saintly and who are we to disagree with a group who know him better than most, but the statement was remarkable in what it didn’t say.

There was no mention of Comer and his general well-being from an incident, which could have had long-term repercussions, no remorse at their clubman’s cowardly attack and nothing about Kelly’s actions impacting on the GAA as an organisation.

Saint Tiernan awaits his fate from Croke Park’s enquiries and it will be really interesting to find out what sanctions, if any at all, come his way, entering the season for serious club activity.

If ever the authorities had an opportunity to show they’re serious about discipline this one has presented itself on a golden platter and nothing other than a long suspension will assuage the public as a whole.

Any other outcome will be greeted with the usual claims of the GAA sweeping it under the carpet through its copious committees and greeted with shrugs of ‘typical.’ Club Eanna’s public stance was also reflective of the general attitude-how can we get our man off?

It was almost like their opening defence for a pending court case and rather than singling out Armagh, even if they’re in the wars a third time this season, you could apply it to every other county and club.

The underlining issue here is the GAA’s mentality of wriggling out of thorny matters like this, often with the flimsiest of excuses, normally associated with procedures.

Looking from the outside in you get the impression there’s as much red tape and legalese in the rule book as in the United Nations in New York.

And regarding same, the timing of a Government report on abuse in sport could hardly be more appropriate.

National Governing Bodies like the GAA, FAI and IRFU are told they will be hit in their pockets if not properly handling disciplinary matters arising from abuse of referees, officials and players.

Sport Ireland will have a part to play in determining whether organisations’ performances in dealing with abuse are up to scratch and will be measured accordingly.

No longer will the case of ‘turning a blind eye’ to incidents of abuse be accepted and offending bodies will now face key performance indicators with the potential of serious financial losses.

Which is why the Department of Sport’s approval of Sport Ireland’s oversight of the process is so important because they can withdraw public funding if they see fit. That’s the next step.

The report, ‘The Elimination of Any and All Abuse Towards Referees and Officials and Players in Sport’, recommended 11 measures, was compiled in the aftermath of the suspension of a schoolboys league in Dublin after referees downed tools because of ongoing abuse.

Bullying and discrimination are all parts of general abuse, which can be physical as well as verbal, which tends to be the most common aspect at games and isn’t confined to the capital either.

Occasionally, there are incidents at juvenile and adult levels of referees, in particular, being subjected to vile verbal attacks with matches abandoned accordingly.

The report’s authors commented on the importance of swift action in dealing with cases.

Will Croke Park’s findings fall into this category and will the punishment fit the crime?

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