July 12, 2017, 8:54 a.m.
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Dublin football manager Jim Gavin has stood over his comments about The Sunday Game influencing Diarmuid Connolly’s 12-week suspension and also that the way the incident was handled “disrespected” Connolly’s good name.
Speaking at a breakfast media briefing ahead of Dublin’s Leinster final showdown against Kildare on Sunday, Gavin also confirmed Connolly continued to play some part in training, intent on returning to play at the All-Ireland semi-final when the suspension expires, should of course Dublin get that far.
“Yeah, absolutely,” said Gavin, when asked if he stood over the comments made in the immediate aftermath of Dublin’s semi-final win over Westmeath, where he claimed Connolly’s “good name was attacked before we even saw the referee’s report” and that “due process should be allowed before we become judge, jury and executioner in one particular incident”.
Connolly received the 12-week suspension for interfering with the linesman in the course of Dublin’s quarter-final win over Carlow, that sanction imposed by the CCCC some 48 hours after the incident.
“All I can say on that is that hopefully the lessons have been learned,” added Gavin, “and from my part, if I believe that a player has been disrespected, and that Croke Park don’t step in, and protect his good name, I’ve no option but to react, as I did the last day.”
Gavin had called out the coverage of the incident by both The Sunday Game and Sky Sports, but “particularly Pat (Spillane)” who “read out a pre-determined statement which was disappointing”.
Asked about the other option - if television pundits should defer from making any comment on disciplinary matters until have they have concluded - Gavin replied: “Absolutely there has to be debate. That’s why there will be debates and great discussion coming into the game and after the game by supporters, but everybody is entitled to their opinion, and to express that, really.
“But as I said at the time it’s not absolute, and if I feel that a player, his good name is being disrespected... like he has, like all other sports, intercounty players have to go out on Monday morning and seek out a living, and if their name has been damaged by that, I just feel that is above and beyond what Gaelic Games are about.”
Gavin also reckoned there have been similar incidences where pundits or game analysis possibly influenced the outcome of GAA disciplinary matter.
“I’m sure there have, but that’s outside my focus, and loyalty. I’m accountable to Dublin GAA and the Dublin players, and that’s where my focus will remain.”
In the meantime Gavin has resumed full cooperation with RTE in terms of doing one-on-one interviews, although he didn’t engage with them since his comments.
“I don’t think it was necessary. It is what it is. I stated the facts as I saw them and hopefully the lessons will be learned. We facilitated everyone on the day, and again we move on, and hope those lessons have been learned by them.
Connolly, he said, was “preparing as best he can”, although under official GAA rules, should be suspended from all GAA activity: “We’ve given him an individual programme, and he’s doing a bit of skills with the backroom staff, so he’s working away in the background as best he can.
So does Connolly attend training or meetings with Dublin?
“The odd... He attends with me, and we’ll have a chat about various things, but he’s on his own programme, working away.”
There had been some calls for Gavin to retract his comments about Connolly and RTE, including from former Donegal manager and Irish Times columnist Jim McGuinness, who said: “But I do feel he (Gavin) made a mistake in this instance and the smart thing to do would be to retract the comments”.
Gavin also reported a fully clean bill of health within the Dublin camp. Michael Darragh Macauley is back to full fitness after missing the early rounds of the championship with a knee injury.