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Comment & Analysis

Bizarre reaction to Canning’s tame comments


THE extended build-up to this replay has been dominated by Joe Canning’s words of a fortnight ago.

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So, what outburst caused the outrage that necessitated a forest the size of Texas to be felled, pulped and printed upon?

Well, unless you’ve been living in a particularly remote frontier of Texas, where all broadband installation crews have been picked off by Indians, you’ll know that all he said was: Henry Shefflin can be a bit of a pain in the ass while trying to influence refs’ decisions; JJ Delaney thought Henry should have gone for goal with the late penalty.

And that was it.

And we’re still talking about it two weeks later.

Perhaps I should take my own advice and forget this storm with no eye ever happened. But I can’t. In every conversation about the final, and in every preview, Canning’s missive is referenced. It has become a thing; intrinsic to the matter in question regardless of worth. To be fair this happens a lot in life, examples include: the grassy knoll, Nick Clegg, Back to the Future 2.

So, it needs to be addressed, though instead of further dissecting the already mutilated words, it might be more telling to examine the reaction.

First there was talk of the extra motivation this would give Kilkenny. Brian Cody’s Mind told us that training between Shefflin and Delaney had now been reclassified as blood sport. True, a Twitter parody account is not the best place from which to glean information — but I reckon it’s a more accurate reflection of what Cody thinks than what the real thing says to the media. Except when he’s appealing for refs to “let the game flow” that is.

The real Cody knows the full value of saying nothing of any value whatsoever to the public. It’s the GAA dogma: if you’re going to unzip your beak, just praise the opposition a little and leave it at that. Which is why Canning’s comments have been heralded as one of the horsemen of the gah-pocalypse (the other three are: alcohol-free celebrations, a Junior league game where everybody is wearing the same colour shorts and a London fixture that starts on time).

I’m not sure if the primary culprits in this omerta culture are the press, but they are certainly accessories. Hacks slope from press nights to dressing rooms to Club Energise launches, switch on their tape recorders, and then cry with boredom as they are later transcribing what’s been said.

When someone says something even half-honest you’d think they would be appreciative and try and not spook the horses. Instead they write about ‘Canning’s bizarre blast’ and arrive at a consensus that the initiative now lies with the slighted Kilkenny men.

All they have done is guarantee that whatever player is wheeled before the media in future will be even more loathe than usual to speak honestly. Imagine the furore if Canning, or anybody else, said what they really think…

We get a more proximate version of reality further on down the road when players put out autobiographies. Publishers know that 300 pages of bullshit are unlikely to set tills ringing (not Cody’s publishers though) so they demand more insight.

There have been some excellent GAA books, but rather than be grateful for the insider-view these books give, many react in a hysterical manner.

Brian Corcoran told readers what the Cork players really made of Waterford, cue lots of let’s-phone-Eddie-Keher-style calls going into Waterford players and officials. What do you make of this lads? Will this give you more motivation next time out?

The really disturbing fact is — though the motivation for these calls is cheap — journalists aren’t entirely wrong to think players will take sustenance from insults, real or perceived.

The chief villain for a lack of interesting dialogue between pressmen and protagonists before big games is the Irish sporting condition. We perform best out of spite and defiance.

We have argued here before that this is an unhealthy and ultimately futile means of thought.

He was probably more of a cricket man, but Buddha put it best: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Our talented rugby team are proof of that. They are incapable of playing their best, consistently, just for the sake of pursuit of pure excellence. They simply cannot put good performances back-to-back.

The pursuit of vengeance is more successful in GAA because you’re pitting Irishman against Irishman. So, whoever is most pissed off has the most chance of playing close to their potential. Hence advantage Kilkenny.

Perhaps not, though. In my more optimistic moments I think that the new Irish generation are not so caught up in how they are perceived, are not so quick to take offence and they chase victory because the thrill of something done well is enough.

In my more optimistic moments, I also think Joe Canning looks at the fuss his comments created, shrugs his shoulders and will go out to hit 2-12.

And the next time he’s asked a question he’ll give an honest answer again, in the knowledge that silly stories splashed on back pages won’t affect him or his game.

And the next time somebody speaks frankly then reporters, editors and ex-players won’t conspire to blow a gentle breeze into a cyclone because they’ll just look ridiculous.

Knowing the quotes they are transcribing are a little less boring than yesterday’s will be enough.

Keep going that way and it could lead to a brighter and more mature tomorrow.


Follow Ronan Early on Twitter: @ronanearly



Ronan Early

Ronan Early is Sports Editor and columnist with The Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @RonanEarly

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