Intercounty Football

Has Diarmuid Connolly Received Fair and Impartial Treatment?

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As Dublin join Tyrone as the second of the country’s top sides to have embarked upon a compromised relationship with RTE, it’s worth taking a step back and asking just how accurate is the suggestion by Jim Gavin that the seeds of Diarmuid Connolly’s suspension were sown on the Sunday Game.

A quick look back at the season so far and it’s difficult not to feel Gavin is indeed spot on in his assertion.

Just a fortnight earlier than the Diarmuid Connolly incident, the RTE cameras caught Sligo’s Keelan Kawley strike Mayo’s Patrick Durcan with a closed fist, at full force, just below Durcan’s hip, off the ball. It was caught by an RTE camera and shown once in slow motion.

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Beyond Dessie Dolan stating that “that was a wild strike” while the replay was shown, there was no further comment by the t-v commentators, in-game or post-match, relating to what was clearly a deliberate strike. By any interpretation, it was undoubtedly worthy of a red card.

More significantly is the fact that the team of officials didn’t actually see this incident in real time. Is it not with the intention of punishing such acts, unseen by the referee and his team of officials in real time, that the CCCC reserve the right to review incidents post-match and dish out suspensions?

RTE made no further comment and the CCCC took no action.

Move forward two weeks to Portlaoise, and an incident which the team officials had obviously seen, as it involved one of them, but decided not to act on at the time. Pat Spillane, amongst other media commentators, went full throttle on Connolly and a media frenzy began.

It’s difficult to feel, as Jim Gavin has alluded to, that there wasn’t an agenda on Spillane’s part, if not others, which the CCCC reacted to.

The clear message sent out when we compare these two incidents is that the CCCC are not a fair and independent arbitrary committee who apply a fair and equal application of the rules to all teams and players.

As opposed to sitting down after every game and viewing games independently, as you’d imagine a serious and democratic committee, with fair and equal standards in mind, would do, it’s difficult not to conclude that they simply react to whatever story comes out in the media.

This isn’t first world democracy. This is school yard rules. I shouted loudest so I get the free!

No furore was made about the Kawley incident and no action was taken. A media furore was made about Connolly and action was taken.

The only logical conclusion to draw is that the CCCC can be overwhelmingly swayed by the views of t-v commentators who may or may not have agendas at the root of their commentaries.

Their claim that media commentary didn’t influence their decision, simply doesn’t stand up to forensic scrutiny.

Frankly, the standards set by the contrasting application of the rules regarding these two incidents makes a mockery of the entire notion of a fair and democratic organisation.

Regardless of whether the CCCC would  have had a legal leg to stand at a higher a level of arbitration or regardless of whether a slight push on a referee should warrant a 12 week ban from football and hurling at club and county level while Keith Higgins’s strike of the knee to the testicles of Damien Comer has merely warranted a one match ban, the fact is that Connolly probably should have been sent off on the day. He pushed the linesman, and the game is on a slippery slope if that doesn’t result in a red card.

The issue is that there has been zero consistency applied when we look at these two cases and how the CCCC has applied its rigor, or not, to the respective cases.

Both Pat Spillane and the CCCC need to take a long hard look at themselves and the standards of consistency which they are prepared to apply.

When it comes to Sunday Game commentary and CCCC application of rules, it seems that all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

By Stephen O’Meara