Irish Examiner Sports column, June 20

June 20, 2008

12-03-2004
Colm O’Connor

Case for defence rings
hollow

 

IT’S hardly surprising Paul Galvin got the book thrown at him this week. After all,
throwing the book was what got him into trouble in the first place.

First things first: mentioning Galvin’s day job as a teacher in
connection with last Sunday is grossly unfair. Players with other professions aren’t held to a higher standard when they line out for their counties.

Neither are pundits. Nobody asks Joe Brolly if it’s appropriate for a
barrister to offer personalised criticism of GAA players.

Unfortunately, therefore, it was a tactical error or poor advice, or both, that led to Galvin mentioning the fact that he trains the school team on RTÉ. He’d have ben far better off pointing out — rightly — that his nine to five job has no bearing at half-three on a Sunday.

Then again, some of the other defences offered on his behalf this week are worse. Take the ‘reputation preceding him defence’, for example — Galvin has a bad name, ergo he suffers more at the hands of referees and opponents than other players.

Unfortunately, the suggestion that Galvin is more sinned against than sinning doesn’t hold up. In almost 30 inter-county championship games for Kerry he has been sent off only twice, and that includes last Sunday against Clare, which hardly denotes a player whose photograph rests on referees’ dartboards.

As for opponents, Galvin himself has apologised since the game and
offered frustration as the cause of his actions. But he also knows stepping onto the field of play what kind of
attention he’s likely to receive.

Earlier this year in an interview he referred to an incident in a game against Limerick some years ago in which opponents got involved with him, seeking a reaction; as that realisation dawned, in words which have a grim ring to them today, Galvin said: “I really learned a lesson that day.”

The reputation argument is closely related to the ‘unfair to miss a season’ defence. Every player wants to play; should the rules be set aside to make them all happy?

The fact that Galvin spent six months preparing for last Sunday’s game could easily pop up in the prosecution brief — having invested that much in getting himself right, should he not have prepared himself mentally for the overwhelming likelihood that an opponent was likely to try to frustrate him?

Reinforcing the point made above, John Kiely, the Waterford manager, put the case eloquently for opposing coaches when he told this newspaper: “If you are in charge of any team playing Kerry you will always try and agitate a player like Paul Galvin. That is sad but true.”

That last defence is linked to the old ‘without that edge he’d be half the player’ chestnut, an eye-rollingly misguided sports myth.

Having the discipline to operate within the rules is a prerequisite in any sport. The most violent sporting confrontations occur in the boxing ring, where the rules must be followed. Why should field games be any different?

Managers down the years have always stressed the importance of having all their players on the field of play; revisit Galvin’s early-season interview and there’s another admission — the realisation that he could cost Kerry games through indiscipline — which reads now like a glow-in-the-dark hostage to fortune.

The only vaguely workable defence offered so far is inconsistency in punishment (though we must have been home from school the day someone decided the GAA was a model of jurisprudence), with Brendan Devenney’s six months for pushing a referee in 2004 the main witness.

Inconsistency advocates are right, but not in the way they think: Devenney should have been punished more severely for that indiscretion. Six months was a light sentence.

Paul Galvin’s suspension is harsh, but it’s justified. Nobody knows that better than he does.

“I have done things that have got me in trouble,” he said earlier this year. “I’ve got away with things too. I don’t claim to be victimised.”

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

 

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