Jim Gavin lambastes Pat Spillane and ‘The Sunday Game’

Dubs manager withdraws co-operation with broadcast media after Connolly coverage

Fair play, Jim. There we were, trudging our weary way down from the Hogan Stand after yet another total eclipse of the Leinster Championship sun by Dublin and wondering how we were going to spin anything new or newsworthy out of a 4-29 to 0-10 waterboarding of Westmeath. Lo and behold, we found it in the most unlikely of places – a Jim Gavin press conference.

Dublin are now apparently refusing to deal with the broadcast media from here on out in anything other than a group setting. Gavin said the new approach isn't in protest at how the Diarmuid Connolly incident was handled but then went on to call out the coverage on The Sunday Game and Sky Sports a fortnight ago.

Gavin has a well-earned reputation for not saying anything of note after games and for attending to his post-match press duties with all the enthusiasm of a dental appointment. Except when he has something to say. And he had plenty to say here.

I still think his good name was attacked but more importantly the right that he has as an individual in the Republic

“First of all, we can’t condone any player interfering with match officials, whether it’s in the rulebook or not. That’s the first thing we’d say. Diarmuid accepts he made a mistake and straight-up he accepted the suspension. For my part, what concerned me was the way his good name was attacked before we even saw the referee’s report. Freedom of expression is one of the rights in the Republic but it’s not absolute. Each individual has his own right and I believe that his good name was affected by that.


"We had the national broadcaster in their post-match review, both Pat Spillane and Colm O'Rourke but particularly Pat, read out a pre-determined statement which was disappointing. Particularly because both of them are teachers you'd hope they'd understand that people do make mistakes and that due process should be allowed before we become judge, jury and executioner in one particular incident.

“We saw on Sky Sports the rulebook being read out against them. Supporters have come to me and asked what’s going on and why is this imbalance happening. I’m really struggling to give them a balanced and proportionate answer. It was my decision to pursue with the CHC and get their opinion on it. We’ve received advice from senior counsel that if this went to arbitration the case wouldn’t hold but Diarmuid didn’t want that to happen. He just wanted to move on in the best interests of the team. That’s what he decided to do.”

Asked whether he believed the media coverage affected the citing of Connolly by the CCCC, Gavin was emphatic.

“Absolutely there’s no doubt about that. Within 24 hours and before the referees report was signed off there was not a media campaign but it got a lot of traction in the media and I still think his good name was attacked but more importantly the right that he has as an individual in the Republic. I think his good name was certainly attacked, that’s for sure.

"The bile and the malevolent attitude that certain broadcasters went after him with. An incident happened in the game and we need to let the referee's report be issued and then we can reflect on it. Like I said, I don't condone what happened and neither does he. He said it was a mistake but people really went after him and that is disappointing from the Gaelic Athletic Association and the coverage that we have had in this sport over many years.

“Diarmuid has put his hand up and said it was a mistake and he’s prepared to accept his suspension. From my part, I’ve a duty of care for the player and I firmly believe there was an attack on his good name. The freedom of expression and opinion – it’s an important part of our constitution and the Republic but it’s not absolute. You can’t attack somebody’s good name unwarranted and I believe it was on this instance.”

And what of the football? Well Toto, this is Kansas. Dublin are in a Leinster final, their seventh in a row, their 12th in 13 seasons. The 31 points they had in hand over Westmeath here was a record margin for the Dubs under Gavin, the manager for whom they have played 14 Leinster matches and finished double-digit winners 13 times. They have so thoroughly emasculated Leinster now that if Kildare can keep it to below 10 points in the final, it will be declared a great day for the parish.

But that’s not what anyone will be talking about this week.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times