Why I’m embarrassed to be a GAA man

Copyright: JAMES CROMBIE/REX FEATURES

It’s now 48 hours after that brawl and gouging incident at the end of the Galway/Armagh championship match in Croke Park.

And I fear a step that is being suggested as a consequence of what occurred is going to leave me embarrassed as a GAA man.

I’ve been a GAA man for over 50 years.

But the suggestion, put forward by many, including a former President of the GAA, Liam O’Neill, on RTE radio 1 yesterday, that the two teams in Croke Park should be made use the dressing rooms on opposite sides of the stadium is, frankly, embarrassing.

It is an admission that GAA players, and by extension the wider GAA family, are so unruly, so ungovernable, so barbaric, so lacking in discipline, so incapable of adhering to the rules, that they cannot use the dressing rooms on the same side of the pitch.

They are incapable of departing the playing surface without a free for all or some sort of physical altercation occurring and so we must insist that they go to opposite sides of the pitch at half and full time.

What next? Arrival at the ground by different routes? Segregation of fans? Entry to the pitch by different gates?

As Colm O’Rourke has observed, soccer players and rugby players can walk off the pitch on the same side at the same time without beating the heads off one another. Why can’t we?

This whole episode is a stain on the GAA family.

But this suggestion that we who love the GAA and its games are so close to lawlessness that we must keep the protagonists apart and in opposite sides of the ground if we are to carry on is an admission of defeat.

And what about provincial grounds where dressing rooms are on the same side of the pitch and you do not have the option of having players go to opposite sides?

We must elevate our disciplinary standards to a point where a penalty such as a suspension means something and is served, unless there are exceptional circumstances. And the circumstances for the overturning of any penalty imposed must be truly exceptional, such as a mistake by the referee in the first instance.

If we don’t, rugby people and soccer people can shake their head, tut-tut and say ‘we were right all along’, ‘bogball’, etc.

Is that what we want? Or will we fix our broken disciplinary system?

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