Pre-match charade is not the real peril facing GAA
Faux bravery will remain but risk of serious injury in hurling needs immediate action
Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe charges down Anthony Nash’s penalty during the Munster SHC quarter-final replay at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Armagh and Cavan players clash during the pre-match parade before their Ulster SFC quarter-final at the Athletic Grounds. Photograph: William Cherry/Inpho/Presseye
The murmurs that went around Tuam Stadium on Sunday afternoon, where I was watching a club game, will be familiar to many. The stadium announcer had already told us of Mayo’s narrow escape from Hyde Park, but the stand was abuzz with word that there had been a big row in the Cavan/Armagh game . . . during the parade.
And so we tuned into the Sunday Game, outrage button at the ready. As is so often the case, the players in question came off looking ridiculous. Telling them they are a stain on this great Association they represent doesn’t appear to have much of an impact, so maybe informing them that they looked like a bunch of drunks trying to help each other put on their jackets at the end of a long night might shame them into improved behaviour.
They just looked like idiots. It was all a little unseemly and grim-looking, until Armagh’s Ciarán McKeever tried to sneak back up to the top of the queue after two minutes of fighting had finally abated, and we then finally crossed the line into high farce. The spectre of violence hangs over many moments in the course of a GAA game, but I wouldn’t have thought the pre-match parade was one of them.
But Oisín McConville told us on The Irish Times Second Captains podcast on Monday that there were occasions during Joe Kernan’s reign that Armagh would insist on marching on the side closer to the crowd – I would have chalked this down as a Northern peccadillo (and Oisín’s already made all the ‘flag/marching/traditional parade route’ gags there are to make) but Ciarán Whelan had also said something similar on the Sunday Game.
I didn’t know that there was a preferred racing line for players in a pre-match parade – if you’re on the inside (so the logic goes), you’re further away from the crowd, plus you have to slow down as you turn the corner . . . and you obviously don’t want to do that.
It’s a minefield, what with players inevitably cramping up at the rapid deceleration on that inside line, or worse still, treading on team-mates’ Achilles tendons, endangering the careers of your brothers in arms.
Given the energy with which Cavan and Armagh players went about their quest to parade on the side closest the crowd in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Sunday, this is a major psychological battlefield that we weren’t even aware existed.