A few weeks back we told you the story of the letters sent to former inter-county referee Rory Hickey in the aftermath of a Munster Football Final between Cork and Limerick.
Our neighbours across the Shannon were not happy with a penalty decision in the game, and one individual was so aggrieved that he cut letters out of magazines to create a letter to post to Hickey’s home house. It sparked the debate of the culture within the GAA of the referee being a target of verbal abuse on the field when something does not go a team’s way. It is not right, it is certainly something that needs to be looked at and there can be no question but that addressing the culture element is central if it is going to be cracked down on. Across the GAA in particular, lads mouthing is an accepted part and parcel of the game and something that has just been accepted as normal. To be fair, there are a few funny stories about some of the smart quips fired over and back during games, but for the sake of legal reasons let’s not put them in print.
For all the comedic ones though, there can often be those that cross the line into plain nastiness and this is where the real issues lie. There are lines can just simply should not be crossed, and when it does it can leave a really sour taste. Bringing incidents that have happened in a players personal life into this sphere is completely out of order, and is it something that the GAA and sport as a whole needs to get a grasp on quickly. One option could be that clubs or county boards themselves deal with these instances internally and make it clear as to what they want their public image to be. Overstep the mark, and suffer the consequences.
It also raises the issue of management being the ones to fire the insults on to the field of play, which takes it to a whole other sphere. Whatever transpires between players inside the four white lines, management should not be the ones to throw the can of petrol into the mix when the sparks appear. You could even make the argument that a manager cannot be focused on the game at hand if he is getting involved in verbal spats with players. It is not their place to do that and it simply cannot be tolerated. There is a whole other element to this in terms of the example is sets for the younger players watching on. Without going too dramatic on the whole ‘please think of the children’ angle, you have to look at what kind of example it sets for those younger players watching on. If there is going to be any radical culture change within the GAA in terms of discipline, then it needs to be implemented across the board. Players and managers are the role models for the future generations, and as such need to be held to higher standards. Surely clubs want those people who are sent out to represent them to do so in a manner they can be proud of?
There is no one can claim innocence, and to think there is would be foolish. That is not to say that change cannot be effected from this point forward. Again, when you hear an opposing team manager taunt a player about something that happened in his personal life, you have to question what road that is going down. It is not good enough and should not be accepted. Everyone can get wrapped up in the heat of a battle, and I am sure there have been plenty regrets about remarks passed. It is now down to how it is dealt with going forward, so that the real focus can be the sporting one.