IT NOW appears that Kerry footballer Tadhg Kennelly has joined former NBA star Charles Barkley among the select group of sportspeople who have claimed they were misquoted in their own autobiographies.

The Kerry footballer has spent much of the week rowing back on his confession he intentionally charged into Nicholas Murphy at the start of last month’s All-Ireland football final, issuing a statement on Tuesday night which went into some detail on the subject.

For the record, last weekend, in an excerpt from his autobiography published in a Sunday paper,
Kennelly admitted he had set out to put down a marker in the
All-Ireland final by charging into the first Cork player he could, which turned out to be Nicholas Murphy, whom he caught with a shoulder to the jaw in the opening seconds of the game.

Subsequently Kennelly said: “I gave an interview to the Australian ghost writer Scotty Gallon.

“I didn’t read it over as I should have, and the first account I saw of the incident was on last Sunday morning.

“Scotty used an expression ‘cop that’ to describe my feelings immediately after I connected with Nicholas. I said no such thing.

“The challenge, I admit, was over the top. I was too pumped up.”

It’s a little bit late for Kennelly to start finessing his position. Claiming he had no intention of injuring anyone while simultaneously
admitting he caught Murphy with his shoulder on the jaw, an
extremely dangerous challenge,
undercuts subsequent protestations of innocence more than somewhat.

It also undercuts something else: a county’s reputation.

This newspaper has been contacted by several Kerry natives wishing to express their disappointment with Kennelly, while on the county’s biggest GAA internet messageboard the reaction early in the week was also been overwhelmingly negative.

Even his manager, Jack O’Connor (himself no stranger to, er,
autobiography-based controversy) said it was “not the Kerry way”.

Kennelly’s team-mates will not have had their hearts gladdened by his admissions either, as evidenced by his pointed reference to Paul Galvin in the original text, which carried a whiff of implication, though the former AFL star moved swiftly to exonerate of his team-mate in his statement.

AS of next year’s league,
referees all over the
country will be spending a fraction of a second longer
weighing up whether accidental collisions and borderline tackles by the team in green and gold are
intentional or not.

Their opponents may not be
inclined to grant even a momentary benefit of the doubt.

If the row casts a shadow over what appeared to be fairy-tale story of All-Ireland success, that’s
unfortunate.

If it leads to
confrontations on the field of play, that would be truly unfortunate.

Kennelly may also suffer because of what is happening in another sport: we’ve been hearing rugby pundits for some time ponder
“intent” when it comes to
controversial incidents, citing legal problems in establishing a player’s intentions when placing his feet or fingers.

Intention isn’t an issue when you round off your description with “cop that”.

What we would really like to know, however, is the reaction of a man in the southeast of the country.

As Brian Cody sips his coffee and leafs through his Examiner this morning, he might ponder that Kerry’s footballer of the year, Paul Galvin, was suspended for most of last season and sent off in this year’s Munster football final replay.

Their totemic midfielder, Darragh Ó Sé, came under scrutiny
following an incident against Meath in the All-Ireland semi-final.

The internal suspension of two more players, both former
Footballers of the Year, was well publicised.

And now a player employed as a coach by the Kerry County Board admits a premeditated assault on an opponent at the start of the
All-Ireland final.

One can imagine the Kilkenny manager putting his newspaper down with a frown to muse aloud: and they said my team were playing on the edge?

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie; Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

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I T’S the book that has shocked the
GAA, but Cork in particular. The
most sensational revelation has had people opening conversations with “Have you read . . .” for the last day or two, and re-evaluating their opinion of a famous GAA player. Everyone suspected it would be spelt out, of course, because the rumours have been swirling around for a while, but the stark, unvarnished statements of fact still came as a surprise.

Enough for now, though, about Tadhg Kennelly’s confession that he targeted Nicholas Murphy in the All-Ireland football final.

Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday carried the banner headline that Donal Óg Cusack, Cork hurling goalkeeper and multiple All-Ireland-medal winner, was outing himself as gay in his new autobiography, Come What May.

By making his sexuality public while still playing Cusack has issued a tacit challenge to the GAA nation in its dealings with him. On the field of play opponents seeking to wound with casual homophobia have had their guns spiked.

Off the field of play . . . well, in some conservative pockets within the Association, Cusack’s identity as a driving force within the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) is likely to remain far more inflammatory than any
flummery about bedmates.

In one sense, it should hardly come as a surprise that a top GAA player would state he’s homosexual: if a
proportion of the population at large can be assumed to be gay, then why shouldn’t that proportion be the same, if not higher, among men who train for hours in the gym all year long, obsess about their diet and physical well-being, and spend the vast majority of their time outside work with other men who share their interests?

Facetiousness aside, Cusack’s honesty deserves to be applauded. His frank and detailed account of telling his family about his situation, for instance, should help others who face a similar prospect.

And In an odd way it was the perfect week for such a development. In the wake of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately’s unexpected death, news bulletins carried references to his husband Andrew without demur or explanation, a tacit declaration that people don’t need to have twentieth-century attitudes massaged in order to handle twenty-first-century realities.

Cusack’s case is different to Gately’s, of course. In a hurling championship game participants don’t face off in front of a crowd screaming with one voice for a song from the latest
album; half of the crowd is
usually screaming with one voice for immediate and terrible retaliation to be visited on the
opposition.

Some throats are probably warming up already for a sitting duck: Cusack is 32, not particularly old for a goalkeeper as dedicated as the Cloyne club man. He was as good this season as he ever was, so it’s more than likely that when Cork take the field in next year’s National Hurling League and Munster championship he’ll be trotting into goal with the red-and-white hooped jersey.

What will the reaction be from those standing on the terraces behind him? In Christy O’Connor’s fine book ‘Last Men Standing’, which follows hurling goalkeepers,
including Cusack, over the 2004
season, one of the common threads to the testimony of the goalies interviewed was the amount of
abuse poured out of the terraces onto the heads
of the men in the No 1 jersey.

GAA members can be complacent about the innate decency of most spectators at
inter-county games, but anyone who has stood behind the goal at one of those games and heard the vilest comments roared about a hurler or footballer’s private life knows there are as many louts following GAA as there are in any other sport.

Cusack has heard as much abuse as any other keeper, a situation which is unlikely to change after yesterday’s revelations; it’s one of the more
remarkable aspects of human nature that some people can reconcile the apparent contradiction of abusing others’ personal circumstances — circumstances they’d accommodate willingly if replicated within their own family.

Enough of the anthropology. The Cloyne man joins a pretty select group of gay sportsmen: former NBA player John Amaechi has outed himself, as did Olympic diver Greg Louganis, though it’s significant enough that both of those men did so after their careers were finished. GAA supporters will have to examine their consciences when it comes to the specific
imprecations they wish to visit on the Cork goalkeeper next year.

Our kudos, by the way, to the
internet sage who wondered if the shocking discovery to be found in the Cloyne man’s autobiography referred to a season spent playing minor
football for neighbouring club Russell Rovers.

After all, there are shock revelations, and then there are shock revelations.

FOR any sports club or
organisation, producing a history is more than a way to link the past with the present. It’s a way to save the word ‘tradition’, a term which often becomes ossified through overuse and ends up scoured of any meaning.

It’s also a way of contradicting the old saw that history is written by the winners, which couldn’t be more wrong: it shows that history is written by the participants, if they have a will to do so.

Cloyne GAA club launch their club history this evening in Ballymaloe.

It’s a handsome production, well written by Dr Diarmaid Ó Failbhe, and bears eloquent witness to decades of activity.

They’ve lifted a title from Stendhal — The Red And The Black — though he’d hardly mind.

Those interested in the Frenchman’s novel will hardly mistake the
adventures of Julien Sorel in 19th-century France for the stormy 19th-century game between Cloyne and Dunmanway in which a Cloyne player was stabbed in the face.

Then again, you never know.

The Cloyne book follows a template familiar to anyone who has a fatal addiction to such histories, this columnist included, tracking the progress of the club on and off the field from 1887 onwards.

There’s an innocent pleasure to
tracing the progress of club members from underage or minor success through to the adult teams in a club and, for many, from there to
administration.

The smaller the club, the clearer the progression — the player goes from the club’s top team, lining up grim-faced before a local divisional
final, say, to its Sunday-morning social outlet side, with barely a defined
jawline between them.

There may not be a decade between the photographs but, if the reader is alert, they give a full account of
99% of all GAA playing careers: wholehearted, enjoyable, obscure.

The player’s name then pops up in the results of agms, drifting between officerships, and eventually a son or daughter peers out from a photograph a couple of chapters down the line, eerily reminiscent of his or her father in a similar snapshot from 20 or 30 pages earlier.

The Cloyne history is no different. Family names are sprinkled through the book like seasoning and incidents which once made the blood boil
between parishes are given a context and resolution.

If the adjudication inclines in some of those instances towards the Cloyne viewpoint, well, maybe history is written by the winners after all.

Certainly there’s a politic discretion about a stormy game in 1972 against Glenville, in which a Cloyne offender was identified in the referee’s report as wearing a headband.

Maybe it was a crime against
fashion.

One of the voices heard in the book is Paddy Hoare, the Kildimo Sharpshooter, who bagged a hat-trick of goals in the 1938 East Cork Junior Hurling Final: still hale and hearty seven decades on, Hoare’s
reminiscences include offering to
swap with one of his team-mates, who was getting a hard time at wing-forward from his marker in the following year’s county junior final against Mayfield.

The Mayfield defender knew he had his hands full: the Cloyne wing-forward had scored 2-4 in his previous outing for the club, and his name was Christy Ring.

Cloyne have been represented on Cork teams since, with Donal Óg Cusack and Diarmuid O’Sullivan their most famous players in recent years, but naturally Ring is a person and a presence apart.

Small villages all over Ireland enjoy brand-name identification arising out of a the exploits of a hurler or
footballer. Valentia and Tullaroan, Knockroghery and Castleconnell — you could name them all night, but you wouldn’t have to wait until evening for someone to drop Cloyne onto the list.

For all his years with Glen Rovers, the maestro was intimately identified with his own home place, and the
history strikes a fine balance in
honouring the village’s most famous export while also ensuring that Christy Ring doesn’t overshadow
everybody else.

One of Ring’s long-time adversaries, Tipperary’s John Doyle, says it best in the book.

“Whatever you do, do it well,” says Doyle, “Because he deserves that.”

They’ve done it well. They all
deserve it.

Contact:
michael.moynihan@examiner.ie ;
Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

The names change, the debates live on

IT WAS county final weather in Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday, and county final conditions.

Patrons will be familiar with the constituent elements: two parts
October sunshine to one part yielding ground, with a breeze cutting down the Marina to spite the clear skies. The cocktail is familiar to anyone who ever attended the Little All-Ireland.

We have a reason for starting with the meteorology, not to mention the geology, one that doesn’t augur well for the entertainment value of the county final itself. Sarsfields and
Newtownshandrum headlined
yesterday and served up an even first half but the game began to die as a contest once Ben O’Connor flicked home his side’s opening goal.

When Newtown added goals from Jamie Coughlan and PJ Copse there were 15 points between the sides with a quarter of the game left. Sarsfields required snookers, if not actually
stuffing the pockets of the table with socks.

It was a surprising demolition given Sars were viewed as slight favourites, and did nothing for the spectators’
enjoyment of the closing stages.

During those final 15 minutes the tension was bearable, frankly.

Newtown won’t be bothered by the fact that the game wasn’t destined to be remembered as one of the great contests; for them it was one of the best displays. And one of the best
results, a historic trimming, 3-22 to 1-12.

History was a constant yesterday in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. After all, one of the men who helped to build the
reputation of the Cork county senior final as a perpetual highlight of the hurling calendar, Din Joe Buckley of Glen Rovers, died last week.

It was good that he was
remembered before the throw-in yesterday with a minute’s silence because he, his team-mates and their
opponents were the men who fought it out in the old Athletic Grounds for the county title and established the competition’s credibility.

Given yesterday’s drubbing it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t always a case of diamond on diamond back then, even — Buckley picked up one of his county championship medals 71 years ago, and that game had echoes of yesterday’s. Back then the Glen were more promising start-up than the corporate superpower they became, much like Newtown; their opponents were Midleton, a traditional east Cork superpower, much like Sarsfields.

Even the scoreline that day has a familiar ring — 5-6 to 1-3, a point less than yesterday’s winning margin.

Other days which recalled the long shadows of autumn were remembered at half-time in the senior game, when the victorious senior captains of the last 25 years were introduced. As ever when you range across a random selection of men from quarter of a century of Irish life, there was a full spectrum of fashion sensibilities on offer — from distressed jeans among the recent winners to muted earth tones for the older men, aligned with classic conservative winter jackets.

They had something in common, though — a shining hour in the old stadium by the river and the memory of having to recall some primary school Irish before wiping their hands and receiving the Sean Óg Murphy Cup. The warmth of the applause was genuine, and if it was a little louder for Kevin Hennessy and Christy Coughlan junior, then that was understandable.

As for Cork observers in the market for optimism next year, they saw Ben O’Connor and his brother play as well as ever.

In terms of fresh blood for the red jersey, Michael Cussen showed neatness in possession and good accuracy for Sarsfields; in the first half he pulled down a couple of high deliveries but couldn’t work a goal opportunity, and as his team fell away he was starved of possession and forced to move outfield. By then Sars were taking water everywhere, however.

Early arrivals saw Eoin Cadogan cruise through the curtain-raiser, the Premier intermediate final between his Douglas side and Ballymartle. Cadogan’s long, smooth stride devoured the ground in Páirc Ui Chaoimh and showed why he’s wanted by Conor Counihan and Denis Walsh alike.

A little optimism for 2010, then, but in football or hurling? The county final has always been more than a game and a result; it’s always functioned as a thesis for debate. And there was plenty of that as the knots of people moved up the Monahan Road, drawing their coats around them as they strolled in the shadows beneath the trees.

The names may change, but those discussions never end.