Discipline, or, more correctly, the lack of it was the main GAA talking point at the weekend.
We had it in our own camp with the Aidan Campbell affair, where the Swinford man was dropped from Saturday’s starting fifteen against Kerry in the All-Ireland U21 semi-final following what the Hogan Stand describes as his involvement in some post-Sigerson “high-jinks” earlier in the week. Campbell, who was an All-Ireland medallist with the U21s back in 2006, was the main man for us in the forwards this year so dropping him from the team was a punishment not only for the player himself but also his teammates, something which was painfully obvious for the first 25 minutes of the match against Kerry.
When he did finally take the field late in the first half, Campbell brought some shape and purpose to the attack but, of course, the pity is that he didn’t have the cop-on earlier in the week to keep himself in check, especially with such a big game for the county coming up a few days later. Had he been on from the start, we’d probably have won the game and so it’s fairly obvious that the young Swinford man won’t be feeling too clever about himself for a while. He’ll also be very lucky, one feels, to escape the axe when Johnno reduces his squad ahead of the championship shortly. For a player of such immense promise, this is all a huge let-down and it’s only to be hoped that he’ll learn from the episode and come back a wiser person and a more committed player.
At least Aidan can claim a dispensation based on his relative youth. Not so most of the participants in that all-out donnybrook at Parnell Park yesterday, where Dublin and Meath gave a passing impersonation of a full-contact training session ahead of the resumed International Rules series. Paddy Russell dealt effectively with the brawl, though he could really have sent off anyone of those directly involved (I thought Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin’s no. 22, was lucky to stay on: if you look at the clip again, you’ll see that he was one of the instigators of the trouble and kept involved until felled by a haymaker from an unidentified Meathman a little later on).
And then our old friend Ciaran Whelan got an early shower too (with Paddy Russell finally recognising a red card offence from Whelan as such – two years on, better late than never, I suppose), with his departure overshadowed by Teagate. Luckily for Whelo, the idiot who fecked the tea at him was as good a shot as the eejit who hurled the wooden spoon at Kieran Donaghy down in McHale Park a few weeks back.
We can now expect plenty of hand-wringing over this latest breakdown in discipline but, as usual, bugger all will be done about it. If the GAA really wanted to stamp out this kind of crack, we need to start seeing swingeing suspensions (of the 12-16 week variety) plus siginificant fines for the two county boards. What are chances of that happening, I wonder? We’ll get plenty of cant and dark mutterings, to be sure, but, as usual, nothing in the way of decisive action.
In fairness to Pat Holmes and his colleagues, they weren’t afraid to mete out some tough punishment to Aidan Campbell and, in doing so, put their charges at a significant disadvantage vis-a-vis their All-Ireland semi-final opponents. It would be asking a lot of the GAA to take firm action against Leinster’s leading counties, action that could weaken both of them in this year’s provincial campaign. However, the two counties have brought it on themselves and the GAA should have the cojones to throw the book at the pair of them.