A few weeks ago there was a huge discussion around the use of sledging by players, managers and supporters at our games. I thought at the time that the authorities in Croke Park or even those that head up the provincial councils would have sent a reminder to those involved in the game of their future behaviour and such actions would not be tolerated in the GAA.
As usual nothing happens. The furore that surrounded the whole topic was soon forgotten and the ‘What Joe Brolly said about Marty Morrissey and Cavan Football’ grabbed all the attention from the media and sledging was yesterday’s news. Around the same time a video appeared on the RTE sport website; it was a three minute clip of a row that broke out at a club hurling match between Mount Sion and Dungarvan. There’s nothing new about that you might say but it was the content of what was being said that caught many by surprise.
While the players were knocking the living daylights out of each other and the referee stood back and took in all that was going on, the only one that was being criticised and lamented on the video was the referee; it was all his fault. The people talking in the video described the referee as not being fit to take charge of the game. They levelled their criticism at the county board for appointing this man to such an important game.
At no time in the entire three minutes or so was there any blame apportioned on those that started the brawl or those who joined in to make it a free-for-all. In their minds it was the fault of the referee, the one man on the field who didn’t lift his hand to strike a opponent.
Where is it going to stop and who exactly is going to do something about it? It’s not the fact that the referee got all the stick, it was the fact that it was everyone else’s fault rather than those that caused it. And such level of criticism or verbal abuse is not confined to adult games; it is the scourge of our games from underage upwards.
In recent weeks we had Colm O’Rourke calling for the guards to get involved after his nephew Paddy O’Rourke, who is goalkeeper for the Meath senior football team, received some serious abuse online. He was sent off for a bad tackle on a Westmeath player. Some of the abuse came from so-called Westmeath supporters but much came from again so-called Meath supporters who were critical of him getting sent off and costing them the match.
Regardless what he did during the game you have to ask the question has anyone the right to tear a man’s character apart just because he does something daft during a football match that at the end of the day is just his pastime? He is the one making all the sacrifices and giving all the commitment yet he’s at the wrong end of the abuse. And what makes it worse is that it is described by many television commentators as a bit of banter.
What do they mean by banter. Is someone calling you a dirty b------, or a useless so and so in front of your family a bit of banter? Is that what we have come to accept as normal and okay in modern day society? Have we been beaten down so much by the shit that goes on in our everyday lives that we no longer can stand up for ourselves any more?
Where are the so called fighting Irish gone? Sport is what most people use to get away from all that crap. Do they have to listen to some moron shooting at the top of his voice obscenities at players or a referee who are doing their best? Why aren’t these people confronted or are they now in a majority that people fear confronting them?
When they are confronted you’re met with the usual ‘I paid my money in, I have the right to say what I want’. What right are they talking about? Who gives them the right to scandalise another person’s name? Do these people think that once they pay for this ticket that they get some sort of Dail Privilege with it? What happens if the next video is of some supporter saying something that could see him or her facing the law and end up costing them a bit more than the price of a ticket?
Is it acceptable that we subject our children to such ignorance and nastiness? Remember there is as much of this going on at underage games as there is at adult level. You can always explain to a kid that hitting or kicking someone is wrong but when children hear and watch the frustration of adults at our games and no one is telling them that this is not acceptable the problem will not go away; ‘monkey see, monkey do’ scenario.
While I don’t apologise for the win at all costs attitude at intercounty level because of the time, commitment and the money that is involved, I don’t accept those who believe that the same applies at underage at club level; the. The GAA is more than that.
I know when this subject comes up the public relations boys and girls will come out and say that these are isolated instances and everything is well in the Garden of Eden but the next time you go to an U-10 blitz when a supporter attacks a referee or another manager you know it’s gone too far.
Maybe the Greeks will show us the way.