RIGHT, let’s just get straight into it, a big list of GAA-related things that are annoying me.
Actually, let’s pause a moment, so I can give you fair warning. If you’re looking to be cheered up, turn the page now. There’s loads of pictures of happy people enjoying themselves at some kind of parade further up in the paper.
If you’re reading online, even better. Go to YouTube and watch the Fenton video again, but steer clear of the Kony 2012 one, because apparently that’s not actually about the Tyrone corner-forward and his hopes for the year ahead.
Now let’s get straight into it.
1. Paraic Duffy. He’s the one who put me in this foul humour in the first place. The GAA director general was on last week about how much of the press coverage of the Derrytresk-Dromid Pearses row this year was over the top to the point of being “disgraceful”. He also ventured the theory that there are journalists in several papers who can’t wait to join the “anti-GAA bandwagon” because of a “form of condescension”.
He’s right on both counts. A bit of a scrum in a junior club match where about a dozen punches were thrown resulted in Derrytresk being treated with only slightly more respect than an Ugandan warlord with a penchant for recruiting child soldiers.
And some of those columnists he was referring to are indeed condescending. My own pet theory is that they are cursed with some form of cultural cringe and assume anything of Irish origin must be inferior. They are the same type of people who take the fortunes of soccer clubs from other countries way too seriously and would start altering their accents about four seconds after landing in London or New York. They annoy me greatly.
All of which makes it particularly galling that the GAA’s reaction was to pander to such coverage with equally over-the-top punishments that included banning Derrytresk from playing outside of their county for five years, as if they had been responsible for Heysel instead of a couple of bloody noses.
Instead of making even-handed justice a priority, the suits in Corporate Park appeared to be trying to appease journalists that they knew to be hysterical. Duffy, apparently, can’t see the hypocrisy in whining about such coverage while also condoning the over-reaction to it.
2. Zero-tolerance managers are annoying me almost as much as the GAA hierarchy. Rio Ferdinand and Eric Cantona can recover from a missed drug test and a kung-fu style attack on a fan, but Kevin Cassidy’s inter-county career is over for giving an interview that revealed the state secret that Donegal train hard. Read the last part of that sentence again, because it underlines the utter madness of Jim McGuinness’ decision.
Cassidy is not alone; Seanie Johnston’s sojourn with Cavan ended because of a talented-corner-forward-is-perceived-as-having-a-slightly-prima-donna-attitude shocker. There is something deeply wrong with that, but being hard done by does not get the talented attacker off the hook, because next on the list of annoying things is…
3. Seanie Johnston. I can’t be alone in being fed up with this. Seanie, it’s not too late. This carry-on is beyond foolish. Your job and your friends are in Cavan and even if you go to Kildare and win player of the year and Sam there will be something missing. Go home, bide your time, and get back in the blue some day, the jersey you truly belong in. Bitterness will never make you happy.
4. Diarmuid Connolly, he’s annoying. I express my opinion that he’s a liability, and what does he do? He only goes out and starts playing like some freakish cross between Matt Connor and Trevor Giles. This make me look foolish, and I find that annoying in the extreme. Please get sent off soon, Diarmuid, or at least pipe down on the hat-tricks.
5. Fines are beyond annoying. County boards are in the red while at national level the GAA reported revenue of almost €47m in 2011. Yet it is all the rage to hand out four-figure penalties for minor transgressions that get overblown by our old friend, the hyperactive hack. There does not even need to be a punch thrown; an unsightly gathering of players and some shoving will leave your local struggling county board in the hole for five large, though only, of course, if there’s a staffer from a national newspaper at the game.
Leaving aside how wrong that is in an amateur organisation, the fact is that it acts as zero deterrent. I have yet to meet the player who will refrain from going to pull an over-zealous opponent away from his team-mate because he’s worried his county might get fined.
6. Laois are annoying me. Justin, just go crazy and throw a third or even a fourth player into the opponents’ half. You will feel liberated.
7. Enda Muldoon’s retirement annoyed me, because he was an entertaining footballer, and we will never have too many of those.
8. Ken Donnelly’s retirement didn’t annoy me but some people’s reaction to it did. Ken who? Exactly. Donnelly was a typical journeyman inter-county footballer, a forward with Kildare. He scored four points from play in the 2009 Leinster final, but, partly because of serious injuries, such feats were rare highlights of his career.
The 32-year-old forward called time on his dream last week, and the reaction of some Kildare followers I know was of the ‘no loss’ variety.
That angers me. The country is full of talented club footballers who won’t put the effort into the inter-county game because it is easier to lap up cheap acclaim from the bar stool as back-slappers tell you that you are better than those actually wearing the jersey.
Ken took the other approach; he put his head down for 10 years in a bid to find out just how good he was. I followed Kildare around Ireland in the 2000s when Donnelly was in and out of the team. There were good days; I was in Semple Stadium when he scored his only inter-county goal, and he gave no less a defender than Karl Lacey a roasting in St Conleth’s Park.
There were even more bad days, but the effort from Donnelly, even when his knee was causing him pain, was never less than total. There are hundreds of Ken Donnellys out there, who seek no fame and get none, who quietly give their all even if they are not blessed with Muldoon-like talent.
When people at the top of the GAA are more worried about the views of the Twitterati than those of their own members, Ken Donnelly and his kind are the antidote.