Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball

'I couldn't believe they'd be so stupid' | Dublin's training controversy

After Dublin's senior footballers were heavily criticised for not following Ireland's COVID-19 pr...

'I couldn't believe they'd be...

'I couldn't believe they'd be so stupid' | Dublin's training controversy

After Dublin's senior footballers were heavily criticised for not following Ireland's COVID-19 protocols and training collectively, Tommy Martin and Michael Verney joined John Duggan on the Sunday Paper Review to assess what is being said about the incident now. 

"I just couldn't believe that they could be so stupid," broadcaster Tommy Martin admitted as talk turned to what the newspaper columnists have made of Dublin's illicit training sessions.

"I didn't see the logic of it in their position and to me, I keep questioning it because Dessie Farrell and all the players involved in the squad are the epitome [of professionalism].

"Why did they think that this was something they should do in this context? Less than 12 hours after the GAA explicitly put out a statement not to do this."

The GAA story of the week just gone, Farrell will now serve a 12-week ban imposed by the Dublin County Board after a selection of his players were photographed training collectively.

As per the Irish government's COVID-19 guidelines, the photographs highlighted a direct affront to the rules.

The source of numerous column inches across Sunday's papers, Martin summarised the breadth of thought available on the issue.

"I think a lot of people are really angry about it and then sort of saying on the other hand, OK, we need to have some perspective on this," he explained, before highlighting one instance of a firmer view.

"Marc Ó Sé, acknowledging that people will see this coming from a green-and-gold perspective, he says, 'this shouldn't be the end of the affair' and he has taken a strong line.

"He is saying that the players cannot just say they were following orders, they are adults and have to take responsibility."

Joining Tommy Martin on the Sunday Paper Review was Irish Independent journalist and former Offaly hurler, Michael Verney.

Without wishing to further condemn Dublin's players for their breach of protocol, Verney considered instead what it tells us about the inter-county game and its demands.

"The inter-county game has been a runaway train," he explained, "[and] there is this kind of FOMO within the inter-county game though, almost a paranoia about what other teams are doing.

"It is almost like teams are thinking, 'Well, everyone else is at it so we need to be doing it as well.'"

After the story of Dublin's illicit training sessions was broken by the Irish Independent during the week, Verney also sought to clarify why the newspaper gave the story quite such prominence.

"The example that the Dubs would set being the GAA's standard-bearers and the most successful team, that's why this was so high-profile," he explained. "People were asking why was it on page 1, well, that's why.

"These are some of the most high-profile players that the GAA has ever seen.

Meanwhile, as the discussion moved toward Dublin's suspension of Farrell, Verney rejected the notion that he had been forced to take the punishment unduly.

"People were suggesting that Dessie Farrell had been made a scapegoat," he noted, "but I wouldn't be surprised if he put his hands up and said: 'Mea Culpa - we were wrong and I need to be suspended.'"

In the immediate aftermath of news breaking about Dublin's illicit training session on Thursday, former Mayo footballer David Brady joined OTB AM to discuss the ramifications it may have on the All-Ireland champions.

Speaking before the Dublin County Board issued Farrell with his 12-week ban, Brady was nevertheless certain that they would act in a way that was least likely to impact the team's on-field performances.

"It will be like a round table discussion in any business now. 'How do we mitigate against the worst possible scenario [for Dublin GAA] and still take our medicine?'," he reasoned.

"In the end, you're only answerable to your shareholders and Dublin's shareholders are really their supporters. Do you think Dublin supporters really, really want [the County Board to act in a way] that would negatively impact [the team]?"

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Dessie Farrell Dublin GAA Gaelic Football Michael Verney Sunday Paper Review Tommy Martin