I NCONTESTABLY self-serving though they were, the remarks of Eamonn Fitzmaurice before Sunday’s league final have at last raised debate about the fine lines which Dublin tend to cross to reach their objectives.
While nothing can change or alleviate the painful memories of All-Irelands determined on unfair decisions, the observations emanating from one of his stature will find an echo in a county hard done by at times in vital encounters.
In unambiguously disapproving of the cynical tactics employed by Dublin in their efforts to maintain their success the primary aim of the Kerry boss was to lift the morale of his own county ... and their victory over Dublin reflected that line of attack.
He was reacting to inflammatory comments leading up to the final in which former player Paul Curran criticised Kerry’s tactics in their drawn game, and team member Philly McMahon drew an analogy with Mayo’s ‘forceful approach’ in last year’s All-Ireland.
For some time this column has been decrying the handling by match officials of Mayo/Dublin confrontations, how the champions seem to enjoy a certain freedom to engage in methods beyond the parameters of normal decency and which are overlooked in the main by a compliant Dublin media.
Drawing examples from their games with Mayo of how far Dublin are prepared to go to realise their ambitions Fitzmaurice was scathing in his criticism.
“Normally I kick for touch with those kind of things because I don’t believe in mind games,” said the Kerry boss. “There is a game of football to be played and you trust the referee to get it right. But I do find it a bit worrying to be honest that there is a narrative out there at the moment and I don’t think it’s balanced at all.”
He recalled the 2013 final (against Mayo) when Dublin were down a man for the last five minutes (due to Rory O’Carroll’s concussion and Eoghan O’Gara’s injury) and basically had to tactically foul to see it out.
In last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, Fitzmaurice said one of his players was wrestled to the ground and basically choked.
The Kerry manager said he had never tried to paint his own county whiter than white. But he had to respond to the assertions of the Dubs out of his duty to the players going in to the weekend on a level playing pitch.
“My worry was that it was developing into a situation like the All-Ireland final replay last year where there was an orchestrated campaign against Lee Keegan that was effective for the replay,” he added.
There were further examples of misconduct in their games with Mayo with which Dublin got away scot-free and to which the media paid little attention. In that replay last season, Dublin were allowed to violate the fine patterns of the game with complete immunity.
He could have referred to the flagrant foul on Donal Vaughan that left him reeling in agony as the linesman less than 20 yards away stood idly by.
He could have referred to the injury inflicted on Tom Parsons near the opposite sideline that went unpunished ... and ‘unseen’ by the linesman.
He could have pointed out the lack of principled intervention by those in charge against the intimidation to which Aidan O’Shea is perpetually subjected.The plain fact is that some officials at big match events where Dublin is concerned seem afraid to intervene ... especially if the infringement warrants dismissal. Their lack of courage dissipates respect for the manner in which the game is won.
One national journalist examined in detail the merits or otherwise of Fitzmaurice’s protests, posting a photograph of the choking incident to which he referred as verification. And he concluded that in no incident cited by the Kerry boss had he not genuine grounds for grievance.
It leaves you wondering though why the press had failed to recognise those transgressions in their analyses of the games. Moans from Mayo are interpreted as whinges and fall on deaf ears. Coming dispassionately from a county with clout on the national scene will, hopefully, have been noted by the powers that be.
Former Mayo football star Tommy O’Malley said it was about time “some manager had the balls to come out and tell the truth. A lot of them are great players but sometimes they act like thugs and get away with it.”
Who, he wondered, was teaching some Dublin players to behave that way?
He recalled a statement made some time ago by former Dublin full-forward Jimmy Keaveney that the Dubs would do whatever they had to do to win.
He said the only solution was for Croke Park to wake up to the fact that there is a serious discipline problem within the game at senior level. “That won’t sort Mayo’s current problems, but Croke Park officials do need to wake up”.
O’Malley said the game is going in the direction of rugby where tackles were made to hurt ... to put a player out of the game for a few minutes.
The game he grew up with was still being played at underage level. It was to be seen in the recent schools final at Croke Park between Ballinrobe and Ballygawley, an outstanding game of clean, intense football played to a standstill, fair and fervent.
Sunday’s league final had less of the rancour that was to be seen in recent games. It was hard and fair for the most part and in the wake of the comments of the Kerry boss transgression when detected was dealt with evenly. How long that discipline remains between old enemies is down to the willingness of those who officiate at games to ensure fair play all round.
O’Shea returns for Breaffy
IT’S too early for predictions, but the Mayo league, which commenced last weekend, reflected players’ hunger to get the season started and renew in every club hopes of progress.
After a sluggish start on home ground, Breaffy in a storming second half reeled in the points in their opening game with Garrymore.
In the light of their unfulfilled promise in the championship in recent years one league victory is not an omen of what’s to come. But when they played direct football in the second half they were impressive.
Garrymore, ever striving to regain their former eminence, offered stiff opposition in the first half, but like many rural clubs are hard hit by emigration.
One feature of the game was the outstanding performance of Seamus O’Shea at centre back for Breaffy. Mayo boss Stephen Rochford will have taken note of the qualities his county star brought to a position he has rarely occupied.