Off the Fence: Armagh Gaels weigh in behind Kieran McGeeney
THERE is only one place to begin this week’s Off the Fence and it is with the magnitude of the 12-week suspension handed out to Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney.
What has particularly bristled with some of our contributors is the alleged (a word which will come in particularly handy this week) disparity in the sentencing between McGeeney and Wexford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald, who was handed an eight-week suspension for his one-man pitch invasion in the game against Tipperary.
‘CATHAL from’, not surprisingly, ‘Armagh’ claims McGeeney is “wasting his time” in inter-county management due to “the conspiracy” against the Orchard boss.
Mercifully, for our libel department, Cathal doesn’t actually finger those allegedly in charge of this alleged conspiracy, but he pulls no punches nevertheless.
“The contrast with Davy Fitz's punishment, where there was such incontrovertible evidence of what he was guilty of, is indeed striking,” he argues.
“Both during his time with Kildare and since he took over Armagh, he [McGeeney] has been the victim of some poor refereeing decisions. It is clear to me and, indeed, the majority of Armagh supporters that the GAA have never forgiven Kieran McGeeney for his association with Donal Óg Cusack in setting up the GPA.
“Also, the fact that he is not a yes man and that he is not afraid to speak his mind no doubt does not go down well. McGeeney should cut his losses by stepping down to give him the freedom to blow the lid on his treatment over the years and, subsequently, to be a real thorn in the side of the GAA authorities. We, as ordinary supporters, really need someone like Kieran to take on such a role.”
‘RYAN from Armagh city’ seems to be on the same page as Cathal when it comes to conspiracy theories, although he is a lot more succinct in his argument.
“The only way to halt the Armagh football revival in the short term is to ban Kieran McGeeney for three months,” is the long and short of Ryan’s point.
‘DERMOT’ is equally livid about the length of the Armagh manager’s ban: “The nonsense being spouted about Kieran McGeeney is remarkable,” he writes.
“First of all, I have to commend Kieran’s restraint towards referees during the League when they were so biased against Armagh that even opposition supporters couldn’t fathom it.
“How that man has continued to bite his tongue and say nothing is remarkable.”
‘BRENDA’ also references the punishment of Fitzgerald and believes the lengthier sentence for McGeeney is unfair.
She also has a radical idea for retaliation: “If the Armagh supporters decide to boycott the Ulster Championship because of this stupid decision the GAA will fairly miss the £££££ going through the gates as Armagh is one of the best supported teams in the country, whether they play north or south.”
RESPONSE: What is particularly striking about the above contributions is not their defence of Kieran McGeeney and their criticism of the suspension – that was perhaps to be expected, especially with the most crucial period of the GAA year nearly upon us – but what they propose as responses to it.
I’m sure many Armagh fans and McGeeney himself will raise an eyebrow or two at the suggestion he should resign from management to go on a one-man crusade against his alleged (there’s that word again) maltreatment by the powers that be. Surely, the best way for McGeeney to get his own back would be for him to build a successful Armagh side?
MOVING swiftly on, ‘Sean the Red’ wants to take issue with former Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle’s recent interview with Brendan Crossan.
Sean says he “didn't know whether to laugh or cry” when he picked up The Irish News with the offending article: “Gerard complains about the negativity of supporters but overlooks the basic fact of football management - managers are judged by their results,” he writes.
“Since the new year, Cliftonville have won three league matches. At times, the football has been dire; a 0-0 draw at home to Carrick, a 1-1 draw at home to the worst Glentoran team I have ever seen and a spineless, gutless 2-0 defeat at Windsor Park to Linfield. Added to that, I remember the Reds at home to Ballinamallard when our first effort on target was in the 82nd minute.”
Sean adds: “I wonder why Davy McDaid was sold mid-season when he was the club's leading scorer? Why was Johnny McMurray allowed to go to Ballymena, where he has turned out to be a proven goal scorer?
“The fans were voting with their feet. When the performances are poor and uninspiring, it's difficult to motivate yourself to go to the games.”
RESPONSE: It does seem that relations between many Cliftonville fans and ‘Skin’ had turned a bit sour before he took the job at Sligo Rovers. But in Lyttle’s defence, he did manage to guide the Reds to a play-off spot for European football for the second year running, and did so with a squad depleted by injuries.
Perhaps a fresh start was what both parties needed.
I’m a bit worn out after wading through all those ferocious polemics, and redacting more than a few lines that may have got us into a spot of bother, so I’ll end with a more positive response to Brendan’s work.
Take it away 'Harry from Louth': “As a very keen boxing fan all my life, I read Brendan Crossan’s recent piece on the 30th anniversary of the Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler bout.
“I have watched replays of Leonard v Hagler and, in my humble opinion, the verdict in favour of Sugar Ray Leonard was every bit as bad as Michael Conlan’s defeat in Rio.
“Brendan’s bit was top class.”
RESPONSE: Allegations that Brendan himself insisted Harry’s letter be given top billing this week are completely unfounded.