GAA Football

Double standards over calls for Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney to go

There's been a mass debate about an anonymous letter calling for Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney to go. Picture by Philip Walsh

A GREAT leader as a player. Lauded for re-structuring the county board, development squads, and improving the finances.

If I’m ever ‘lambasted’ I’d like it to be in such a manner.

Don’t get me wrong, of course there was also strong criticism of Kieran McGeeney in that now infamous letter published in our sports pages last week.

The writer hit out at perceived hard luck stories/ post-match excuses, what he deemed as excessive loyalty to the backroom team and certain players, and also took issue with tactics.

Armagh supporters rallied round ‘Geezer’, citing much improved performances in this season’s Championship.

No one is doubting that the Orchardmen are on the march.

Or are they?

Raising concerns is never easy, especially when the perception is that significant progress is being made.

No one knows if Armagh will kick on next year or regress, though; even current player Aidan Forker, a fervent fan of McGeeney, acknowledged that success next season is not guaranteed.

Our anonymous emailer is of the opinion that someone else could do a better job in charge of the Armagh senior side.

Amid all the pearl-clutching furore, hardly anyone actually engaged with the content of the letter, addressed the arguments put forward.

The assessment was harsh, in my opinion, but calling for change is not necessarily an outrageous view, given that ‘Geezer’ has, in five seasons, enjoyed one Ulster SFC win (after extra time) and reached one All-Ireland quarter-final (in which Armagh were trounced by Tyrone). In the League they’ve been promoted twice from Division Three and relegated once from Division Two, where they finished fifth.

However, credit where it’s due: Armagh played some terrific attacking football this year, beat old rivals Down, impressively disposed of neighbours Monaghan, and were somewhat unlucky to lose to Mayo – with all of those Championship clashes away games for the Orchard County.

Ironically, the publication of that letter will probably help keep McGeeney in the job, as long as he wants to stay on.

The Armagh County Board will not want to be seen to concur with the assessment of ‘Mr Anonymous’, although it’s highly unlikely that they would have thought about changing boss anyway.

More irony emerged online with hundreds of people insulting this former player and making utterly unfounded – and indeed incorrect – claims about his playing career; calling into question the character of someone about whom they know almost nothing, except that he’s a former Armagh player whose identity has been verified but who wished to remain anonymous.

If only they knew…

Shooting the messenger also came into play, of course, with libellous allegations against the integrity of my colleague Cahair O’Kane.

Public opinion is what it is, of course, especially on Twitter.

Indeed, as more and more people leapt aboard the moral outrage bandwagon it became obvious that many comments were coming from the sort of person who wishes their other half ‘Happy Birthday’ on social media.

Sigh.

Most of them may not have even read the article, but they were determined they wouldn’t be left out of the virtue signalling frenzy.

Some of the responses ranged from amusing to laughable and back again. The chap who called this paper a ‘total rag’ - yet still follows @irishnewssport

Those Tweeters railing against anonymity – from anonymous Twitter accounts.

What truly astounded me, though, were some members of the media jumping aboard the angry-mobile.

Their double standards were quite remarkable.

A number of critical ‘journalists' work for organisations which regularly run articles bearing anonymous quotes.

Consider how many political stories appear with unnamed sources calling for leaders to leave – or be kept out of – high offices of state. Often the quotes are attributed to cabinet colleagues. What about loyalty and collective responsibility in that regard?

For example, the Observer on Sunday had a Tory MP labelling Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, and Boris Johnson all as “useless.”

Obviously that paper could argue ‘fair comment’ in its defence, but still...

OK, politics isn’t sport, but there are still plenty of machinations and manoeuvring in the latter.

How many times, usually from this time of year onwards, have we read stories about county panels wanting a change of management?

How often have these disgruntled players put their heads above the parapet, put their names to leaked statements of discontent? Even though they will happily anonymously brief against managers and/or be part of such ‘heaves’.

What’s the moral standpoint on anonymity in those cases?

As regards players and managers in sport, many make public statements which they know to be untrue in terms of either fact and/or their own opinion – but they’ll say it anyway. Does putting their name to those false statements make them acceptable?

Last year’s GAA Congress decided against allowing greater transparency of the voting system. Only one-sixth of the delegates wanted openness.

Truth be told, I don’t know how the Armagh County Board voted on that motion…

I do know that there was a distinct lack of outrage over Meath manager Andy McEntee’s recent apparent threat to inflict violence on a journalist, all because he asked a question about players being allowed to partake in the club hurling championship.

Indeed, most Twitter responses seemed to think the foul-mouthed attacks from the Royals boss were hilarious. Imagine if a journalist had dared to be half as aggressive to McEntee…

There’s something badly wrong when people believe that anonymous comments are worse than direct threats.

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