Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Joe Kernan: Start talking... and call time on foul verbals

Top referees such as Pat McEnaney can help to clamp down on the abusive verbals which are currently a cancer within gaelic football

There will be plenty of talking done this week-end when the GAA Congress is held in Mullingar.

Important motions will be debated, big decisions are likely to be made and delegates from every county will subsequently give their verdicts on the day’s proceedings, perhaps even in rather colourful language.

Overall the discussions are certain to be positive if maybe not inspirational, forceful but not abusive.

However, there are now increasing concerns that talking of a rather different hue could ultimately besmirch the good name of the Association.

The disgusting verbals at which certain players and indeed some teams appear to unfortunately excel are currently a cancer within gaelic football and as we approach the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships, the flagship competitions, I believe it is an appropriate juncture at which referees should be reminded of their duties to attempt to clean up the language employed during our games.

It is an open secret that derogatory references to players’ mothers, wives, sisters, girl-friends and partners are made during the course of games and, let it be said, particularly in the heat of championship encounters.

There are officials and others within the GAA who like to allude to gaelic football as a manly sport — but there is nothing manly about the acts of cowardice that are regularly perpetrated nor indeed about the filthy verbals that are a disgrace to the sport.

When Wayne Rooney was quite rightly pilloried by the public and punished by the FA for his foul-mouthed tirade to the television cameras during Manchester United’s victory over West Ham United, he was defended by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson but castigated by just about everyone else.

Yet there are people within the GAA who would take the moral high ground on this particular issue instead perhaps of taking a look in the mirror.

Goading, taunting and provocative gestures accompanied by what we can only assume to be less than complimentary remarks have infiltrated gaelic sport to an alarming extent.

I well recall a prominent county player, someone who has given exemplary service to the game and a schoolteacher by profession, missing a comparatively straightforward free-kick in a game a couple of years ago and a member of the opposing side running some 30 metres to accost him — and it certainly was not to exchange pleasantries.

Could you imagine an onlooker running on to the green to heap verbal abuse on Rory McIlroy as he made a valiant effort to stay the distance on the last day of the Masters?

It would not happen, of course.

Yet the equivalent of this occurs almost weekly in gaelic football and it’s time that referees started to flash yellow cards when they become aware of precisely what is happening.

We are fortunate in that we have some excellent whistlers within the GAA — Pat McEnaney, David Coldrick and Maurice Deegan to name but a few — and I know that they would be well capable of spearheading the drive to erase the insidious verbals.

I am conscious of course that a few — and it is only a few — of our referees themselves are not above employing the odd expletive and making disparaging remarks to players.

These same referees now have the logo ‘Give respect, get respect’ on the arm of their shirts and they should heed this mantra themselves.

Verbal abuse of a sexual nature is particularly abhorrent in any context but in a sporting connection it is totally intolerable.

Sadly, double standards exist within the GAA. There are managers who will criticise their colleagues and opposing teams but yet will refuse to take action against those within their own sides who transgress with their tongues.

Verbal abuse is a stigma within our wonderful sport — something of which we should be thoroughly ashamed.

I know there are important topics to be discussed in Mullingar this weekend and I certainly hope that decisions are arrived at which will benefit both the image and the tradition of the GAA.

But equally I hope that somewhere along the line the thorny matter of just how this verbal abuse should be dealt with is ventilated.

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