Colm Parkinson: GAA journalists have the perfect chance to take a stand against Jim Gavin's bans
“Dublin GAA stars and management will attend a media event to announce details of Dublin´s new ‘official hydration partner’ and discuss Dublin’s prospects for the remainder of the Allianz Leagues and year ahead...”
Let me get this right: Dublin county board need the much-maligned media’s help to promote a new sponsor?
This relationship should really be working in both directions and, considering these type of requests, Dublin’s marketing department - yes they have a marketing department - should have a word with their senior football manager Jim Gavin who has been treating the media with contempt.
Jim Gavin interviews have become something of an in-joke amongst GAA journalists, but he's entitled to treat interviews whatever way he wants. Interviews were never the problem - they are amusing at this stage - it's his new penchant for media bans that's more concerning.
Walking out of a one-on-one interview with Jim and throwing your eyes up to the sky is guaranteed to get a good laugh from your waiting peers.
One former colleague in Newstalk told me of Jim’s tactics before I experienced them for myself. The Dublin media manager will give you a time restriction with Jim - say, four minutes - and, after your first question, Jim will go through every player on the opposition team, telling you how good they are. By the time he’s finished, you get a tap on the shoulder and the time is up and you’re left with an interview you just can’t broadcast.
While I don’t like Jim’s media personality, I can grudgingly understand why he does it. Dublin are so high profile he doesn’t want to make any headlines and wants his players to give as little away as possible. He’s as boring as he can be for a reason, in my opinion. Personally though, I think he takes it too far but that’s his way of operating and we have to deal with it.
Ironically, this lack of information and insight creates a vacuum which often leads to misinformation, something John Costello strongly criticised in his annual report.
“Firstly, I'd like to address a number of recurring 'beliefs' about our current set-up at senior intercounty level," the Dublin chief executive said.
"Myth 1: Our senior teams have meals delivered to their homes on a daily basis or ever in fact. UNTRUE.
"Myth 2: Our senior teams are given five-star, 'all-expenses paid' treatment. UNTRUE.”
I only say Jim’s ‘media personality' because anyone who knows him knows that’s not what he’s like. Everyone saw the footage of him returning to his club Round Towers in Clondalkin with Sam when his real personality amongst family and clubmates shone through.
So GAA journalists don’t like it because it’s a challenge to get anything out of him - a challenge that is usually lost.
What’s ironic for me regarding the Dublin county board request for media attendance at their sponsor launch has been Dublin footballers’ recent media bans which have affected the majority of media outlets. They’re a worrying trend and something the media need to take a stand on together .
In a dispute with RTÉ earlier in this league campaign, Jim refused post-match interviews with the national broadcaster because they had the temerity to treat Dublin like every other county in the country and refuse to provide them with recordings of national league games. RTÉ provide the service to counties during the championship but not the national league.
Apparently this warranted a ban and RTÉ had been shut out.
Last year, a ban was imposed on all broadcast media because of their perceived unfair treatment of Diarmuid Connolly. To Jim, pundits analysing the highest profile player in the country pushing a linesman and quoting the rule in relation to it was unfair.
“Before we even saw the referee's report, we have the national broadcaster, both Pat Spillane and Colm O'Rourke, particularly Pat, who had a predetermined statement.
"We saw the rulebook being read out against him on Sky Sports. Supporters have come to me and asked me what's going on, and why is this imbalance happening.”
In 2015, Newstalk were banned from interviewing Jim after the Leinster final because of an interview I did with him a week earlier. I had pushed Jim on an incident that happened in a challenge game and he didn’t come across well. After the interview, out of respect, I asked him was he okay with everything and he said yes, he understood I was just doing my job. We walked out of the interview together and had a more normal chat about the match at the weekend.
However, when the media manager saw the reaction it got, he contacted Newstalk to inform them that the whole station was banned from interviews after the Leinster final.
GAA media bans are not a very common phenomenon but that’s three Jim has been involved in, that I know about. Armagh had one in 2014 which was heavily criticised and Mickey Harte has his own, more understandable, reasons for not talking to RTÉ. GAA journalists on the beat are respectful of players and managers and there is a good relationship there in general so it’s not common for media bans to be put in place.
As I said, the majority of media outlets have been affected by Jim’s media bans but will they say enough is enough and make a stand together? I can’t imagine the new hydration sponsor would be pleased if their big announcement wasn't featured anywhere accross the media.
The GAA media are not exactly known for sticking together on issues like this. Journalist Declan Bogue was put out of a Jim McGinness press conference after the All-Ireland final in 2012 and not one colleague followed him out.
It’s not too late to take a stand on this one.