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An Irishman’s Diary: A Beaufort scale for GAA incidents

A new way of measuring on-pitch incidents

Players from both teams get involved in a scuffle during the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic between Dublin and Galway in Boston. Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

There appears to be big differences of opinion about whether that brawl during the weekend’s “Hurling Classic” in Boston was serious. But this only highlights how subjective these judgements are. It seems to me that players, match officials and the media would benefit from a proper classification system for such events. That’s why I suggest a Beaufort scale of GAA incidents, from force 1-12, as follows:

1. “A game for the purists”: The match passes without a bad tackle. Spectators are calm. Pigeons graze on several areas of pitch. Kerry and Galway both score more than 20 points but Kerry win by seven, having never looked in danger. Commentators describe it as “one for the purists”. Many TV viewers fall asleep.

2. “Niggly undercurrents”: Some slightly late tackles are noticed. Martin Carney mentions “one or two unsavoury incidents creeping in”. Pigeons continue grazing, no cards are shown and somebody puts the incidents in perspective by reminding viewers that the training sessions of Kilkenny camogie teams are more physical than this.

3. “Typical Ulster Fare”: Many late tackles and off-the-ball incidents occur. Leinster referee suffers visible effects of stress as game wears on. The phrase “man-marking” is taken literally by all defenders, forcing Martin Carney to describe at least one on-pitch event as “most unsavoury”. There are no pigeons anywhere but during the last 20 minutes sheep roam freely in the half of the pitch where Donegal are not defending a two-point lead.

4. “Handbags”: Umpires’ flags wave for incidents other than scores. At least one major stoppage forces referee’s intervention. Players exchange shoulders from standing positions. Chests become enlarged and bump each other. Hair of Tyrone players is lightly ruffled causing them to fall over. Flecks of spittle appear on lips of some supporters. Linesmen are told they should have gone to Specsavers.

5. “Passions overflowing”: Umpires’ flags wave violently. Enforced stoppages last longer. Players exchange shoulders as before, but with added run-ups. Some insulting of opponents’ female relatives is clearly visible to lip-readers. At least one actual handbag incident occurs in the stands, after a supporter questions the paternity of an opposition player within earshot of the target’s mother.

6. “Schemozzle“: Ten or more players become involved in simultaneous shouldering or chest-bumping. There is some use of arms and at least one player is wrestled to the ground but there are no punches. Sticks fly (hurling). Dublin’s Philly McMahon involved somewhere (football). In stands, flecks of spittle give way to spray. Pigeons take flight.

7. “Fisticuffs”: Punches are thrown resulting in red cards. Commentators express shock, until somebody jocosely compares the incident with Páidi Ó Sé’s knock-out of Dinny Allen in 1975 and suggests that boxing standards in the GAA have fallen. As tensions subside, viewers look up the 1975 incident on Youtube and laugh again as the referee is apparently blown over by the draught from Ó Sé’s left hook.

8. “Disgraceful scenes”: As in “Schemozzle” but with punching, gouging and mixed-martial-arts. Referee is jostled. Fighting spreads to substitutes and team mentors. Some pigeon fatalities reported. Calls afterwards for new coloured card to be introduced to deal with hitherto-unidentified form of foul play. Events on pitch cause more controversy than anything Joe Brolly can think of to say about them.

9. “Mass brawl”: All players, substitutes, and mentors become involved. Hurleys are broken. Spectators foam at mouth. Gardaí are required to escort officials from pitch. The Central Competitions Control Committee is placed on emergency stand-by. Letters are written to newspapers. At least one editorial calls for something to be done.

10. “Mass brawl plus pitch invasion”: As number nine but with supporters joining in. Incident leads TV news. Staff of Joe Duffy’s Liveline have all leave cancelled.

11. “National scandal”: Gardaí and other emergency services called in. At least one match official subsequently found tied up in the boot of his own car. Newspaper editorials call for emergency return of Dáil. Gaelic Games temporarily replace Islamic State as worst threat to civilisation.

12. “We don’t want to see this on a GAA pitch”: Bishops issue joint encyclical condemning the violence. Joe Brolly rendered momentarily speechless. Conor McGregor says he wouldn’t want his son playing Gaelic football. Commentators agree that “we don’t want to see this sort of thing on a GAA pitch”. RTÉ announces record viewing figures.