The spotlight is firmly on the Carlow hurlers after horrendous incidents in Corrigan Park
“Everybody knows how you get out of a fight – all you have to do is foul.’ – Evander Holyfield
IT was in the third round Mike Tyson lost control. It was the moment when fear triumphed over courage.
When the bully got bullied.
Evander Holyfield had given ‘Iron Mike’ a boxing lesson in their first encounter seven months earlier, stopping him in the 11th round.
In the second round of their rematch, Tyson sustained a cut above his right eye.
Ian Darke, Sky Sports commentator, called it right when he described Tyson as “flat and distressed” in the opening two rounds.
Here was the once-feared world heavyweight champion complaining to referee Mills Lane over Holyfield’s use of the head and yelping in the corner when his cuts man tried to stem the blood flow to his right eye.
Next round, Tyson spat out his gum shield and bit off part of Holyfield’s ear. It was an horrendous foul.
Worse still, Mills Lane allowed the fight to continue and only deducted a point off Tyson.
But Tyson was intent on getting himself out of the fight.
He had a nibble of Holyfield’s other ear before he was disqualified.
Mayhem ensued when Mills Lane waved the fight off.
Tyson only got brave when the ring was packed with security staff as he attempted to get at Holyfield.
In an interview with Ferdie Pacheco, Holyfield said: “There are rules and regulations. You gotta understand when a person wants to bite you and tries to break your arm, he was just doing illegal tactics.
“That’s not showing courage whatsoever.
“Everybody knows how you get out of a fight – all you have to do is foul. We are in a fight already. Why don’t you whup me with the gloves on?
“And when the fight is over, then you get brave and you really want to fight. You had the chance to fight.”
In his autobiography, Tyson showed little remorse for failing to observe the Queensberry Rules in such horrific circumstances.
“I really didn’t care if I got suspended,” wrote Tyson. “I was in New York buying a Ferrari when the Nevada State Athletic Commission met to decide my fate.”
Tyson knew he was going to lose a second time to Holyfield. So he fouled to get out of the fight.
It was fight or flight – and Tyson took flight.
When he reached that crossroads, Tyson chose the coward's path.
I remember covering an important game involving two Irish league teams.
A player was sent off during the game.
He was booked for an off-the-ball tangle and he later hammered into another opposition player and was rightly dismissed.
As he made his way off the field he waved to the opposition fans and gave them the thumbs up.
It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that he fouled to get out of the game.
And if he didn’t foul to get out of the game, his bout of indiscipline was at the very least deeply regrettable.
From season to season, there are umpteen examples of sportspeople taking the wrong option, or the easy option in their chosen theatre.
Last weekend, the Carlow hurlers didn’t cover themselves in glory. Four red cards (three for Carlow, one for Antrim) were issued by the match official.
After scoring the match-winning goal, Antrim’s Neil McManus was felled by Carlow’s Richard Coady in a horrific incident.
Coady drove the butt of his hurl into McManus and left the Cushendall man with an unspeakable injury.
Coady fouled to get out of the game right under the nose of one of the umpires.
Coady left an irreparable pockmark on his own sporting reputation and that of Carlow’s.
In the same game, a wild swing on Michael Armstrong left the Antrim hurler needing surgery to repair a badly broken arm.
Local photographer ‘Curly’ McIlwaine caught the moment of impact and the desperate angle of the attempted block from a Carlow player whose identity is unclear.
Coady and the unidentified Carlow player didn’t respect the game.
They showed scant regard for hurling etiquette, for the rules and spirit of the game and how to accept defeat.
Instead, their philosophy last weekend was: When the going gets tough, get out of the game.
You wouldn’t see those kinds of vicious assaults on a boozy Saturday night in city centres up and down the country.
Both indiscretions were cowardly and thuggish.
There was nothing remotely brave in Carlow's performance in Corrigan Park last weekend.
The ‘sledging’ of calling Antrim players and officials “British b******s” paled into insignificance by the end of a brutal encounter.
Now in the hands of the CCCC, there are questions to be asked of Carlow officials.
How do they go about repairing their own reputation?
Will they impose their own sanctions on Coady and identify the other Carlow player that left Armstrong in hospital?
The ball is firmly in Carlow's court.