Just because they signed an autograph doesn't mean they're not hurting inside
If you stop and smile you're pathetic and if you walk away then you're the point at the edge of a thorn.
It's an absolute free-for-all at the end of inter-county games nowadays and, as a player, it must be hard to know what you're supposed to do.
Because if there's nobody lining you up for a selfie, as soon as the final whistle is blown, then you can take it for granted that there's someone else eyeing you up with a ball or a hurl or a copy or a cast that they want you to sign. The buzz and the fanfare of it all must be a great novelty at first but, when you see grown adults looking for autographs and when you hear young fellas asking for your jersey, surely it doesn't take too long for that novelty to wear off.
Especially if it comes just seconds after you've lost a game. Conor McManus showed plenty of patience and generosity to meet and greet young Monaghan fans on Sunday, moments after he and his county were knocked out of the Ulster championship by Derry.
The Dublin hurlers did the same thing on Saturday night. They posed for photos and signed a few autographs but, having lost the game by 17 points, they came in for plenty of criticism for doing so.
"I'm a bit disgusted and I'm not going on a Roy Keane rant here," John Mullane said on RTE Radio.
"But the Dublin players are still out on the field, they're getting selfies, they're getting pats on the back, they're laughing and joking with their friends. They've been beaten by 17 points. I saw one Dublin player here and he was holding the phone up for the selfie.
"They're after being beaten by 17 points. Get in off the field, get into the shower. Don't be laughing and joking out on the field. And get ready for Galway next week. I think it's pathetic. Honest to God, I think it's pathetic."
But as Donal Óg Cusack said on The Sunday Game, and while they may have been better off getting out of their as quick as they could, it was a no-win situation for the Dublin players.
A passing comment from one Dublin fan to another, on the way out of Parnell Park, summed their evening uphttps://t.co/3T3ipnuIbX
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) May 14, 2022
"I've no doubt when the Dublin players woke up today, they felt terrible," said the Cork man.
"But the last thing you wanted was someone going out of Parnell Park last night with an impression of one of the Dublin hurlers was that they got beaten by that much and then they wouldn't even stay on the field to get their picture taken...You're in a no-win position as a player."
He then went onto make the valid point that, above all else, it's harsh to give out about players when, at that particular moment, signing an autograph may have been the last thing they wanted to do. It may even have been something they were embarrassed about.
But they still did it. And it makes for a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.
"I would say there's a lack of understanding from the crowd sometimes about what the players are going through. But I think it's testament to the type of player that we have that they stay around the field."
Because, at the end of the day, just because they signed an autograph doesn't mean they're not hurting inside.