Examiner Sports column October 17 2008

October 19, 2008

Integrity of game takes a back seat

Trevor Brennan: former rugby star appointed to coaching role for Rules Series staff.

FIRST things first. A couple of weeks ago this column mentioned a lift received one time from Irish rugby international Ronan O’Gara in a rather splendid car, which we likened to one of 007’s little runabouts. Grey. Snazzy. You know the job.

Of course, nothing would do one of our readers but to point out that the ejection-seat option we referred to would probably kick in automatically for any journalist sitting in it.

Ho ho ho. You know I saved the number you texted from, right?

Rather embarrassingly, we have to begin this particular column with a similar tale. Last year during the
Rugby World Cup your correspondent ended up in Trevor Brennan’s company after France dismembered Namibia in Toulouse, when one of this newspaper’s rugby writers insisted on calling in for a chat to a nice marquee-type arrangement that Trevor had set up along the banks of the river.

Ah, the pleasant breeze, the cool drinks, the French chat.. All very
refreshing. And in fairness to Trevor, when the evening came to a close, he insisted on dropping us back to our
respective hotels. For some reason best known to the sports editor, our rugby writer stayed in the Royal Hotel Splendide Magnifico De Luxe, while your columnist lodged in Le Petit Carbuncle, or some such establishment.

The reason behind this less than thrilling revelation is the news of Trevor’s installation as a coach with Sean Boylan’s international rules squad, which is surely the QED when it comes to arguments against this misbegotten mess of a game.

Enjoying the man’s company and the decency of a lift home should remove any suggestion of personal bias or
dislike and allow your correspondent to point out that his appointment tells you something crucial about the
international rules game. A sport which is supposed to mix Gaelic
football and Australian Rules football needs a man from a different sport
altogether is needed to coach Irish players in order to play it?

Mickey Harte made that same point recently, and it’s hard to argue against the Tyrone manager on this one. You could point out that Mickey Ned O’Sullivan has given the Springboks advice on catching the ball, but that’s a false comparison.

Cross-code pollination occurs all the time when it comes to individual skills which are common across sports, but this is a different kettle of fish altogether. You could almost say it’s a whole other ball game, but hasn’t that been the problem from the start?
FACE it. The only reason you’ll flick on the Compromise(d) Rules is to see if there’s a scrap. And that would be fair enough if only everyone would only be honest and up front about their motivations.

But instead we get the usual farrago of excuses: the international
dimension, the pride involved, the
enthusiasm of the players. Our favourite excuse for the preservation of this nonsense is the crowd.

Since when did having a lot of
people around constitute a reason for anything? According to the history books bear-baiting and Christian
sacrifices did quite a brisk box-office in
medieval Europe and ancient Rome respectively, but nobody is looking to reinstate them on those crowd-pleasing grounds.

Then again, maybe the bears and the Christians weren’t vocal enough about their support for those japes. It’s
commonly asserted that the Irish
players are hugely supportive of this game, yet we can’t remember any of them raving about the thuggish assaults of the Aussies the last time out.

As for the international dimension, stop. Please, just stop: either Gaelic football is a game worth playing or it’s not, but don’t use a totally different sport played half a world away as some kind of endorsement of it. That smacks of the craven old hunting for validation that used to throw up the old “GAA players fitter than Premiership players” codology.

As I said to Trevor in Toulouse, you can leave me out just here.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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