John Scally’s new book, 100 Great GAA Controversies recalls the controversy about Ger Loughnane’s criticism of Kilkenny hurling.
Scally writes: The playwright Eugene O’Neill argues that our tragedy is that we are haunted not just by the masks others wear but by the masks we wear ourselves.
We are acting all the time because life makes us unnecessary deceivers – apart from sometimes when we are all alone. This man though is a study in authenticity.
He believes that attitude is the little thing that makes the big difference. He has the voice that when he needs it to cuts through the air like a reaper’s scythe.
Just ask Marty Morrisey.
He has a steely stare that could send the meek and the mild hiding under their beds.
Henry Shefflin discovered that in the 2022 Leinster Championship. Shefflin also experienced the ferocity of Cody’s handshake.
We fell asleep in one world and woke up in another. In spite of the posturings of various media figures, the reality is that we did not see this coming, even though a handful of enlightened prophets did issue some unheeded warnings.
Chief among them was Ger Loughnane’s observation, ‘We’re all in trouble now.’
Loughnane always has had the capacity for sharp observation. I once asked him how I could best learn the secrets of GAA politics. His answer was short: ‘Watch The Godfather.’
When Brian Cody was appointed Kilkenny hurling manager he began the most successful managerial career hurling has ever known.
The glow from his fire would light up the hurling world though he would guard his secrets as if they were the most sacred of Masonic mysteries.
He knew how to unravel the threads of probability and possibility and held the past, present and future of the black and amber jersey surely in his hands, cupping them in a chalice of self-belief.
His team became the sun around which all the others were moving orbits.
The team was powered by some of the greatest defenders in the history of the game: Tommy Walsh; Jackie Tyrrell; Noel Hickey; Brian Hogan and J.J Delaney.
Cody said Delaney was the greatest defender he has ever seen. That is some endorsement.
All those defenders had the talent and the hard work. Some like Brian Hogan and Noel Hickey were surprisingly fast. To be hit by Brian Hogan was like being hit by a JCB.
THE DARK ARTS
In 2007 Ger Loughnane, at a time when he was managing Galway, created a tidal wave of controversy when he suggested that some of the Kilkenny backs ‘played on the edge’ and possessed a mastery of ‘the dark arts’.
He drew attention to their tendency to ‘push the rules to the limits’ which was code in the GAA vernacular for saying they went way beyond that.
In particular he expressed a concern for the finger-tips of his players if they tried to catch the ball in the vicinity of Tommy Walsh.
While conceding that this was only a relatively minor part of their play he claimed that it was a dangerous one.
The great and the good of Kilkenny hurling led by Eddie Keher were quick out of the blocks to accuse him of hurling heresy.
A few months later after they comprehensively beat Limerick in the All-Ireland hurling final the controversy continued and was a major talking point on The Sunday Game that evening as if Loughnane was a sinister apparition in a dark fairytale.
I texted Loughnane during the programme. His reaction was a mixture of amusement and bemusement.
‘Can you believe it? They have just won back-to-back All-Irelands. They should be celebrating it but instead they are still giving out about me!’
100 Great GAA Controversies by John Scally is available in all good bookshops now.