Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Joe Kernan: ‘Verbals’ say a lot about what’s wrong in gaelic football

There are not too many aspects of gaelic football that leave me cold. After all, I have been involved as both player and manager for more years than I might care to remember ... but there is still an element of the sport that disturbs me greatly.

And that is the use of ‘verbals’ between players from opposing sides during matches.

Sadly, this appears to be even more pronounced now.

The virus surfaced again during the All Ireland Championship - some teams have already acquired the dubious distinction of being more proficient than others in this sphere - and it now appears to have permeated the Ulster Club Championship, even though this competition is still in its early stages.

Nowhere was it more pronounced, it seems, than in the Cavan Gaels v St Galls quarter-final last Sunday - and that saddens me greatly.

Here we had two teams laced with quality players and anxious to get their hands on the provincial prize, yet the match was not only besmirched by verbal insults but pock-marked by yellow and red cards.

What a great pity that players should stoop to employing insults - some of it can be of a sinister variety - in what is perceived to be a means of unsettling their opponent.

This cancer must be eradicated from our sport if at all possisble. I acknowledge that it is difficult to pinpoint perpetrators and much more difficult to impose penalties on them.

But I fear that a continuation of this malaise could possibly lead to more serious trouble and the GAA itself will then ship a serious blow in terms of credibility.

The Club Championships, indeed, often provide some of the best fare of the year and as the competitions gain pace in the various provinces, interest levels invariably heighten.

Cavan Gaels will not complain unduly about the nature of their contest against St Galls, since they left Casement Park as the victors, but Clonoe were left with a distinctly sour taste in their mouth when they fell to Donegal champions St Eunan’s.

Clonoe manager Damian Cassidy thought his side should have been granted another week’s breathing space because of the hectic itinerary they faced of late but instead they were pressed into service again and ultimately they fell victims to fatigue.

They showed superb organisation and commitment in winning the Tyrone title and might well be still in the Ulster Club title frame had their wish for a week’s grace been granted by the Ulster Council.

While Clonoe have taken their leave of the competition, Damian will now focus on his new role as Derry boss and I certainly wish him every success in his endeavours.

He will obviously pay particular attention to the progress that Ballinderry make in the Ulster Club series. They were efficient and clinical in disposing of Monaghan champions Latton last Sunday and with players like Enda Muldoon, Niall McCusker, Conleith Gilligan, Raynmond Wilkinson, Kevin McGuckin, Collie Devlin and Michael McIver in their line-up, they have the necessary attributes to try and knock Crossmaglen Rangers off their provincial perch.

The Rangers meet St Patrick’s (Donagh), the Fermanagh champions, on Sunday on a spanking new surface at Oliver Plunkett Park just laid by Fermanagh pitch specialists Prunty! Maybe the Erne county representatives will rise to the occasion against the reigning Ulster champions.

And I would like to see St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna, my neighbours, do well in the Intermediate championship in the curtain-raiser.

While the chase hots up for the Ulster Club crown, I’m delighted to see that the Ireland team came out on top in the International Rules series. Sean Cavanagh proved a great captain and manager Sean Boylan and his backroom team of ‘Bomber’ Liston, Anthony Tohill, Hugh Kenny and Sean Marty Lockhart can take immense satisfaction from a job well done.

Mind you, I was perturbed to learn that the squad did not fly Business Class to Australia. These players deserve the best and, next time round, no expense should be spared in getting them to Down Under. No wonder they played better in the second Test when they had time to recover from their travel fatigue!

Cork’s Graham Canty was immense in the Melbourne Test but his display offered the only encouraging note to emerge from the Leeside county this week.

The impasse surrounding the appointment of Gerald McCarthy as hurling manager has now deteriorated into an embarrassing saga.

The words ‘player power’ tend to surface rather often, don’t they?

A long time ago I was told that players should play and managers should manage.

Players deserve to be treated with respect but administrators must be allowed to fulfil their roles too.

As far as I am concerned, that mantra still holds good today. The sooner the Cork dispute is resolved, the better for all concerned.

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