GAA Football

Danny Hughes: Beware of fake news in the GAA world

Mayo's Donal Vaughan was harshly criticised for his sending off in the All-Ireland final Picture by Seamus Loughran

DURING last year's US Presidential election, Donald Trump coined the phrase ‘fake news'. Depending on what you believe, or want to believe, it can be difficult to define what is and isn't ‘fake news'.

With the explosion in social media outlets, an unending access to opinions and ‘news' can, from a sporting perspective, be very informative and beneficial.

The darker side is that it can be also be destructive and irresponsible.

After the All-Ireland final, we had the usual opinions, particularly on Twitter.

The common theme for many people was where to assign blame for Mayo's defeat.

I was also surprised about the commentary around Jim Gavin and some of the Dublin players.

In many quarters, the talk of a lack of emotion displayed by Gavin and his captain Stephen Cluxton in the minutes and hours after Dublin won was a popular strand of disparaging commentary.

Manchester United fans will remember the ‘Anyone But United' brigade founded during the two decades of domination during Alex Ferguson's reign (I was a fully paid-up member of that organisation by the way).

This is why I increasingly believe there are some people who will never appreciate this current Dublin team.

Dissenters will point to the huge financial resources Dublin have at their disposal.

They will say that Croke Park is both their spiritual and numerically advantageous home venue, so for everyone else this is like entering a lion's den with nothing but a stick with which to defend yourself.

They will use these reasons to justify the break up of Dublin into two teams or establishing a senior and intermediate All-Ireland championship.

The credit for Dublin getting their house in order structurally is immaterial. The fact that they are the best-organised county board in the country is deemed irrelevant.

While other boards are reactive, Dublin have set the bar and are crucified for it.

I read somewhere in one article over the weekend the assertion that Mayo have better individual players than Dublin.

This is a matter of opinion, not a fact and it is something that we should be rather careful in taking as such.

After winning All-Ireland titles at U21, club and senior county level, a quick review of Con O'Callaghan's record of achievement in the last two years would suggest otherwise.

As a past player, I read this thinking, if Jim Gavin needed a motivation for 2018, he need to go no further than this.

I remember a reading a quote that the Down team of 2010 was one of the worst to get to an All-Ireland final and, at the time, I thought it was very disrespectful.

We had beaten everyone we needed to until that point and unluckily lost to an experienced Cork team by one point.

I can point to the All-Ireland final this year for example, when Chris Barrett was being touted as a potential liability for Mayo at centre-half back. I listened to a few ex-Mayo players suggesting Aidan O'Shea should line out in his position.

One outstanding final later and he's a potential Allstar.

Over-reaction to incidents like Lee Keegan throwing a GPS device at Dean Rock or like blaming Donal Vaughan for Mayo's defeat all similarly left a sour taste for me.

Jim McGuinness may have been correct in an article in The Irish Times when he said that Mayo have only themselves to blame, or more specifically Donal Vaughan, for their defeat.

However, I think Jim, as a player, would have experienced games at club and county level where a team loses a player and still wins the game.

I have trained alongside Vaughan with the International Rules panel in the past and, without correction, I can say that he is one of the nicest guys I have played with or against.

I questioned if he actually had the sheer nastiness to play against the Aussies.

Vaughan made a mistake and, as his protestation demonstrated, he actually meant to hit John Small with a shoulder.

He will carry this incident to the grave and knowing him, he will beat himself up every day until then.

To blame him is to find the easy way to explain away a defeat.McGuinness should know from his own time as a manager, and indeed as a student of psychology, that this blame can decide a man's future footballing career.

That incident, for me, didn't decide the outcome and it is irresponsible for others in an amateur context to say otherwise.

With both teams left with 14 men, Mayo's only real numerical concession from that incident was a potentially kickable point.

However, given Cillian O'Connor's miss in a similar position in the first half, this was by no means a gimme.

The ‘what-ifs' are never easy to analyse.

I read an interesting comment from Eamon McGee about

‘GPS-gate', that it showed wonderful “innovation in a high pressure situation.”

I have to agree with him making light of that particular incident.

Anyone who has played the game is willing to do whatever it takes to win.

There are some immoral and illegal methods, which obviously are just not acceptable.

But we know these.

For Lee Keegan, losing a fourth All-Ireland was a cross too hard to bear so he adopted a needs-must approach.

As far as Gaelic football is concerned, I think we should be careful with what we read and believe, even if we cannot control what is being written.

What I am trying to say is that I am increasingly erring on the side of caution when it comes to what I read on social media.

Fake news doesn't just apply to politics nowadays, but increasingly sport is being affected by similar sensationalism.

Headline-grabbing it may be, but this doesn't make it true.

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