‘Penalties are for soccer, not for GAA’ - shootout and ugly brawl dominate after Galway win

Galway manager critical of deciding matches on penalty shootouts but looking forward to semi-final

Spare a thought for the Central Competitions Control Committee. The GAA’s put-upon disciplinary body of first instance has another incoming controversy heading for their desk.

It would be to misunderstand their view of being dragooned into service to investigate bad behaviour to describe Armagh as the gift that keeps giving but the county is heading for a third CCCC investigation this year after previous events in league matches against Tyrone and Donegal.

The fracas that erupted as the teams left the field to gather themselves for extra time was ugly and ridiculously unconstrained. It included TV footage of Galway’s Damien Comer apparently getting his eye gouged and players involved in a general dust-up.

Afterwards both managers expressed their unhappiness at what had happened but the deliberations of the GAA’s disciplinary apparatus will obviously be of more concern to Galway with an All-Ireland semi-final against Derry coming up on Saturday week.

Their captain Seán Kelly was one of the two players red carded before play resumed, along with Armagh’s joint-captain Aidan Nugent, but neither side was sure as to why those players had specifically been selected.

The ‘gouge’ was news to Galway manager Pádraic Joyce.

“So you’re telling me there was an eye gouge then?”

Well, it looked that way.

“Sure, that’ll be dealt with. I didn’t see it, honest to God. I was the far side of the pitch. I came over, I saw scuffles going on, I tried to pull our lads away and that was all I did.”

His opposite number Kieran McGeeney was asked about the scenes.

“Once it starts it can get out of control. It’s not a nice part – I wouldn’t want to see it but then trial by social media is a very poor way to go. It showed the last time, like, if people had actually sat down and watched the video, they might have got it right.”

This was presumably a reference to the successfully disputed suspensions arising from the Donegal league match.

Asked did players not have to take some responsibility, he riposted.

“What happens if somebody pushes you? Do you push back?”

Strangely he was less exercised by the dramatic penalty shoot-out – the third in championship since it was introduced this year but the first in an All-Ireland match at Croke Park – than Joyce, who had been very critical.

“In fairness, my heart goes out to Kieran McGeeney and the Armagh team and supporters because it’s no way to lose a match, a quarter-final. We’re condensing this season into six or seven months, which is crazy to be honest. Both sets of players, Galway and Armagh, have trained flat out since last December.

“It’s something the GAA need to look at because we’re not soccer. Penalties are for soccer. It’s not for GAA in my eyes.”

He did say however that his team had been practising penalties every night since December.

McGeeney was more fatalistic about the new protocol.

“It’s just the way sport is. It’s cruel. Going to replays and stuff is not fair on supporters either, the way things are. Coming to Dublin is an expensive thing to do. It’s not ideal to do it. It’s a pure lottery.”

Joyce reflected on the dramatic surge and counter-surge of a match his team had led by six more than a minute into injury-time.

“Coming in at full-time it nearly felt like a loss at that stage. We were six up and lost it but then they found eight minutes of injury-time and then played two more – 10 at the end of the game. It was what it was but in fairness to the lads they showed great character, great resilience.

“. . . Galway had to go and win a big game in Croke Park, and the was a big game, a tough game.”

The win was only the county’s third in 18 matches at Croke Park, stretching back to their last All-Ireland win in 2001 when Joyce was playing.

He was clearly frustrated at the manner in which his team had been hauled back by Armagh.

“Ah hugely, very disappointing: high balls into the square – just lacking communication to call for the ball. We had one that Conor (Gleeson, goalkeeper) threw out and shouldn’t be doing that but we got away with it today. Will we get away with it down the line again? We’ll see.”

Was he worried about potential disciplinary follow-up?

“All I know is that we’re playing Derry on Saturday week so we’ll get everybody right for that. As of now, everyone is available bar Sean Kelly but we will look at that as well.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times