Examiner sports column, 28 March 2008

March 31, 2008

Dub trouble as Freeman fallout comes to a head

By Michael Moynihan
WE’RE WORKING hard on a title here for events in Dublin’s Parnell Park last weekend. Buttgate sounds like an animated comedy for MTV. Headgate suggests a revolutionary trepanning procedure. Parkgate is a street near the Phoenix Park.
We almost settled on Parnellgate, but the whole idea of scandal aligned with the name Parnell (see the entire works of James A. Joyce for more) seemed already taken. We’ll keep going, though; we’ll come up with something.

Fallout from the Donnycarney Kiss that Monaghan’s Tommy Freeman received at the end of last Sunday’s NFL game against Dublin continues to fall all around us like radioactive spores from a nuclear explosion.

At first, it was suggested that a member of the Dublin management team had run onto the pitch after the final whistle and tested the strength of Freeman’s brow with a firm header. Then the goalposts shifted, much as they probably shifted in the unfortunate Tommy’s field of vision right after the alleged assault when Dublin County Board chairman Gerry Harrington said that he’d been informed by his Monaghan counterpart John Connolly that Freeman had been attacked by one of the match stewards in Parnell Park.

The ever-increasing distance between the Dublin management and responsibility for the incident suggests that by the middle of next week the finger of blame will probably be pointing at a bewildered linesman in Tallaght.

Last night’s statement from the Dublin County Board on the matter was more specific, particularly the part which read: “The Dublin County Board, team management and the individual involved have personally apologised to Thomas Freeman.”

It doesn’t make the trouble go away, of course. The increasingly crowded sidelines at intercounty games must have been one of the inspirations behind Monaghan player Dick Clerkin’s suggestion during the week that pitches might have to be enclosed.

(That initiative brought to mind an administrative exchange some years ago in Cork, when the manager of a certain club sought such a pitch for a forthcoming encounter at junior B level; asked to justify seeking to limit the number of people on the sideline, his answer was short and sweet: “The opposition”).

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for discipline in the GAA, which is a sentence that remains in wearyingly common use.

A fine of €5,000 imposed on Mayo County Board because their supporters were throwing missiles at Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy is a precedent which suggests that Dublin will get a severe rap in the wallet, if not across the knuckles, when this incident is fully investigated.

In that context Dublin manager Paul Caffrey chose the wrong day to indicate solidarity with forward Mark Vaughan. Sent off for hitting a Monaghan player in the face, Vaughan was greeted warmly by his manager on the sideline.

That’s helped to conflate several matters: the crowded sidelines issue in general, the assault on Tommy Freeman and the apparent hostility of the Sky Blue supporters towards Monaghan players after Sunday’s game specifically, with all of the above augmented by the fact that two Dublin players were sent off during the Monaghan match itself. That’s all now bundled together like a telecoms provider offering a three-for-one deal on general badness.

A willingness outside the Pale to believe the worst about Dublin’s support, fuelled primarily by their apparent inability to get to games in their own backyard on time, shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat them until all the facts are in (and, er, not necessarily then either, if you get me).

But if those facts support the initial allegation — that a member of Dublin’s backroom team was responsible for the assault — then it’ll be Caffrey who comes under scrutiny, and the extent to which he’s responsible for the brouhaha.

You can’t have a gate without a pillar, after all.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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