Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Antrim must lay down a serious marker if we are going to root out the thugs

The night after Kerry defeated Antrim in the 2009 All-Ireland qualifiers, the county board put on a round of club fixtures.

Paddy Cunningham was the county captain at the time and he lined out for Lámh Dhearg against Sarsfields. He hit a goal from the penalty spot and shortly after with play continuing down the other end of the field, he was struck off the ball, fracturing his cheekbone. He recalled his assailant saying at that point, "That's for the penalty..."

Last week, Antrim senior panellist Brendan Bradley was playing for his club St Gall's. He was caught with a punch off the ball, his jaw was broken, and he lost several teeth in a sickening incident.

On Saturday night, Wexford and Dublin hurlers met for the second time in a week. Unfortunately, it was a mess of a game. The Wexford players repeatedly pulled high across their men and tested the helmets of the Dublin hurlers.

We constantly delude ourselves in the GAA that there is some sort of code of conduct, that belts and hits are given out and taken without complaint. This is a tiresome falsehood.

Barry McElduff tells an anecdote about a referee's report that was sent into the West Tyrone board during the '60s by a referee called P. Haughey from Carrickmore, who was known for his command of the English language. It read, 'Before commencing the game, I called both team captains in to the centre of the field and I exhorted them to play the game in the noble and sporting tradition of the Gael.

'At this point, I received a blow to the left temple and fell to the ground. I have no recollection of anything that may have happened thereafter.'

It's a great yarn for a GAA chat night, and it might have even teased a smile out of you, the reader. But it also shows us that we have had a casual and blasé attitude towards violence for too long. In recent years it has ended careers and altered lives for the worse.

There are signs that the Antrim board have a serious appetite to resolve this case swiftly. Every fan of Gaelic games have to hope they lay down a serious marker.

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