As a criminology student, we’re all given a year participating in a general crash course on the laws in Ireland and how it works in certain areas and not in others.
Sitting in one class, we learned about how a pub was taken to court over the fact an allotted smoking area had a roof over it. The judge in question sieved through various definitions of a roof, concluded that the pub was in breach of the terms of the smoking ban and was subjected to a fine.
Mental images of a judge rifling through dictionary definitions of a roof came back to me over the last fortnight with analysts, officials, and any person participating in the Diarmuid Connolly "pushgate" debate trying to explain what laying a hand on an official meant.
During Cork's win over Tipperary last weekend I had to laugh when I saw Paul Kerrigan, very delicately, place his hand on the back of Ciaran Branagan, the very same official in the Diarmuid Connolly incident.
Jokes began to circulate about how many weeks poor Paul Kerrigan would get and, to be honest, it summed up the farce surrounding the latest Diarmuid Connolly saga.
During the game itself, Branagan did not bat an eyelid after his so-called kerfuffle with Diarmuid. In fact, the man stood his ground and watched as Connolly was being dragged, pulled and hammered by Carlow players as the Dublin player held his hands out in a “do you see this?” fashion.
The fact is, how it was dealt with in the game was not enough for some folk who are riding around on their moral high horses.
The rule is crystal clear in the sanction, but not the offence. The GAA rulebook states that “minor physical infraction (eg. laying a hand on, pushing, pulling or jostling) with a referee, umpire or sideline official is punishable by a minimum sanction of 12-weeks”.
Again, define threatening language, define what laying a hand on someone is. The way I see players laying hands on officials is the way Paul Kerrigan does it. Should they all get 12-week bans?
The trial by media that has occurred since is nothing short of laughable. Those bemoaning Connolly’s push clearly are too delicate to notice that tempers were high and a man was being pushed and shoved while asking the official for either protection, or to take note of the fact of what was happening.
The CCCC, it seems to me anyway, do not take action unless Pat Spillane and co have an issue with whatever happened. Week in and week out, former players and analysts harp on about officiating. If the CCCC were so keen on reviewing games, they would do as any decent sporting organisation does. The NFL, for example, puts the top officials in front of a screen to analyse the games and review where officials went right and wrong.
A report compiled from that is sent to NFL HQ, with the recommended punishments highlighted. As a result players either receive fines (which are unworkable in an amateur code) or are told of their punishments with the option to appeal with a lawyer available to them. After a punishment is rejected or accepted, the NFL posts all games on their website with an official going through plays step-by-step.
With this happening behind the scenes, it prevents trial by media, trial by society and more importantly leaves the respective player and teams to deal with it in private, without any meticulous scrutiny or embarrassment thrust upon the player.
After all, the same moralists who are asking for Connolly’s head are the same people who tell you the GAA does not protect the players or who regularly tell you the players need more respect for putting their bodies on the line.
In the end, it will probably end up in the archive of cases, not setting any precedent because the case would never stand in a court of law. Barring nothing short of a disaster, Diarmuid Connolly will be back for Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final.
The next media circus is now officially on hold until August . . . when poor old Diarmuid is provoked and reacts in a manner that will upset a nation once again.