In Damian Lawlor’s new book ‘Fields of Fire’ he talks about the renaissance of hurling in the modern age.In the book he talks to Limerick Hurling captain Donal O’Grady. O’Grady lifted the Munster championship last year after many years of turmoil both on and off the field for Limerick hurling.
O’ Grady talks about the threats he received after losing the All-Ireland semi-final against Clare, the eventual winners of last years’ Liam McCarthy cup.
While it has been known before that players, managers, county board officials and, of course, match officials have received threats in the past, O’Grady comes out and tells his story.
For years this sort of thing has been swept under the carpet because it would tarnish the reputation of the organisations, so when situations have arisen the public relations have worked overtime to quell any bad publicity. They will suggest that they are isolated incidents; they may go and suggest that these people are off their rocker and not to be taken seriously.
Which is grand in one way because if you give them air time how many would come out of the woodwork then but what of the people who get these threats and their families? It’s easy for someone on the outside to tell them not to worry and it’s only a load of cobblers but they’re not in the situation and we all know there are nutters out there.
Cathage Buckley was the referee who took charge of the Wicklow versus Laois Leinster hurling championship match in Aughrim in 1986. It became known as the Battle of Aughrim because of the nature of the game. He sent off four players and Wicklow went on to win the game. After considerable abuse after the match he went home; a couple of days later he received a letter. The letter stated that he would be got; his linesmen as well and while it might not be today or tomorrow it would happen.
Buckley didn’t speak about the letter because of the fear and hurt it would cause his wife and young family. A couple of weeks ago he read the letter out on News alk’s Off The Ball programme.
We all remember the Cork hurling wars of a couple of years ago, where the players didn’t feel comfortable with the manager in charge and wanted him removed. It went on for weeks and some players went on strike. Ger Mc Carthy is a legend of Cork hurling; he captained his county to All-Ireland success yet they turned on him. He was on holiday when a ‘phone call came to his house; his son answered the call and a death threat was issued to his dad,
Mc Carthy resigned straight away and while everyone condemned the threat, including the players, in a interview not that long ago on TG4 McCarthy expressed his sadness at such actions taken by those who at times don’t realise the commitment that people take for the love for their club, county or indeed the GAA as a whole.
There was the case of Martin Sludden, the Tyrone official, who took charge of the famous Meath-Louth Leinster championship game; we watched it develop in front of our eyes and the abuse that Mr. Sludden took in the aftermath of that game was bordering on psychopathic.
The situation went on for months and I have no doubt that Mr Sludden, if he still is refereeing, gets the same old shouts from the crowd. Has anyone asked him for his story? The real story, not the one we like painted all sunshine and roses.
The GAA as a sporting organisation does it’s utmost est to deal with these matters; they punish clubs and county boards who are involved in unsavoury incidents and they ban those who carry out unwanted actions but how can you stop someone going to a game. No I.D is required to get into any game. Not all grounds have c.c.t.v so the culprits cannot be identified afterwards.
Let’s go back to Donal O’Grady, the Limerick hurling captain; after giving a huge commitment to his sport, giving up all that goes with inter county football or hurling, leading Limerick to success after years of in-house fighting and quarrels they finally win something. He is the one who was chosen to represent the team and just because maybe, and I say maybe, they got carried away in the whole bubble of success that they might have taken Clare for granted in the All-Ireland semi-final, it’s all his fault. People who call themselves supporters take the time to send him hateful and hurtful emails, messages on Facebook and hand written letters, some signed, some not. We are supposed to find this acceptable or part and parcel of Irish culture. These men give up their young lives for their county with very little reward and some people would have you think that they have to do it and what do they want. They get the honour to put on a county jersey and how dare they not play well or lose,. How many supporters will ask players how are they fixed for a job? How many supporters will ask about old injuries or how many care? At least in professional sport you get the financial reward.
This will not go away. Now more than ever people demand success. How many people jumped on Jim McGuinness and the Donegal players’ backs last year when things were not going so well. The times we live in has left people fickle and less caring for others; people’s reputations are whipped away with a shout from the crowd; players are insulted and their family and friends in the crowd have to listen. While I don’t agree all the time with the political correct nature of modern society, there has to be a line that no one should cross, especially in sport.