Nothing Manly in Sour Grapes

Mickey Harte wasn’t happy with the amount of injury time played in his team’s defeat to Monaghan. Would the amount played have mattered had Tyrone won?

Mickey Harte wasn’t happy with the amount of injury time played in his team’s defeat to Monaghan. Would the amount played have mattered had Tyrone won?

When we Gaels get all uppity about the perceived purity ergo superiority of football and hurling over professional soccer (“you wouldn’t see them rolling around like that in Thurles”, etc), I cannot avoid recoiling a little. Here’s why.

Davy Fitzgerald, following Clare’s defeat to Cork, griping about the refereeing of James Owens and Mickey Harte moaning about the amount of stoppage time played in Tyrone’s defeat to Monaghan.

Put it like this: would either manager have uttered a word of disquiet had their respective teams won? Of course not.

Let’s face it, the last time a victorious GAA manager struck an unhappy tone on television was Brian Cody telling off a shrivelling Marty Morrissey after the epic 2010 All-Ireland Hurling Final.

I’ve been at enough Championship matches in my life to understand that when the public address informs us that “there will be at least two minutes of additional time at the end of this half” that a referee is perfectly within his rights to play beyond that declared time.

But the cherry on top of all the attempts by managers to simply not accepting defeat in a manly, sporting manner, is the appeal process following a red card – when taken to its extremity, I must stress.

We’ve not yet reached the stage where a County Board will bypass both the CCCC and the DRA and head straight for the European Court of Human Rights, but let’s not dispel the possibility of that ever manifesting itself into reality.

In preparing a contribution for the Ken McGrath All-Star Challenge match programme, the decision reached by John Mullane in the wake of his 2004 Munster Hurling Final dismissal sprung to mind.

Despite the appeal process being open to him, and despite being urged to pursue it, John though the better of it, and decided to observe his suspension.

In one of the great ‘what ifs’ of modern Deise hurling history, one wonders would that Waterford team, at its peak that summer according to Ken McGrath, have edged past Kilkenny in that All-Ireland semi-final with Mullane available?

Considering the form of both Ken and Paul Flynn in particular, the latter never better than in that agonising reversal to the Cats, and Mullane, as he’d established in the previous campaign, a serious goal-getter, I believe the answer is yes.

That John Mullane opted to abide by his suspension that summer grows all the more commendable with every passing season, and all the more laudable when one looks at the lengths some have gone to avoid censure.

Feeding into that, the inability of managers, but forget not the fact that they’re being pressed for comment just minutes after an emotional reversal, cannot simply concede that the better team won, is an unwelcome trend in our games.

Cork and Monaghan both deserved their victories last Sunday week. Fact. No grand conspiracy to take down Davy Fitzgerald and Mickey Harte via nefarious means by officialdom exists. Fact.

I leave you on this sage note from legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden when asked for his thoughts about defeat.

“I came to understand that losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.” Managers everywhere, take note.

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