Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

We should all be spitting mad at blight on the GAA

FBD Football League Final 27/1/2013 Emlyn Mulligan
Kerry's Paul Galvin

Suddenly, the 'S' word is beginning to dominate the GAA vocabulary. It would certainly be immensely satisfying if we were referring to style or sophistication but sadly we are not.

 

Instead, after the sledging has come the spitting and now we ask ourselves – what next?

It is indeed a great pity that in a month in which there is such a proliferation of high quality GAA activity – the Allianz football and hurling leagues, the Ulster U21 football championship, the MacRory Cup semi-finals and final, the Sigerson Cup final and the All-Ireland club finals – that the Association should find itself in negative territory.

Hardly had the ink dried on the annual report of Director General Paraic Duffy in which he thought that he had tackled all the main issues which currently confront the country's biggest sporting body than another ugly, sinister element has apparently slithered onto the radar.

Spitting, let it be said, is the weapon of the lowest of the low. It is debatable if any other action on the part of a player, official or spectator is calculated to raise hackles and evoke a reaction more than spitting.

For quite some time it has been accepted within the GAA fraternity that there is a behavioural line below which players do not go.

That line is not being so much breached as completely ignored just now if recent incidents are to be taken as a gauge.

The spittle directed at Donegal's injured star Karl Lacey as he left the stand at Healy Park, Omagh following his team's defeat by Tyrone, the very public 'whodunit' verbal spat between Eoin  Mulligan and Paul Galvin in the wake of an alleged incident in the recent Cookstown Fr Rocks v Finuge All-Ireland club intermediate football final and the claim by Leitrim player Emlyn Mulligan that he was spat at by an Offaly player in the league Division Four tie between the sides on Sunday have combined to heap embarrassment on the GAA. Galvin's insistence that he was spat upon by a Cookstown player – there is absolutely no proof that the player in question was Mulligan – has served to tarnish relations between Tyrone and Kerry further.

The Central Competitions Control committee is set to investigate Galvin's claims and those of Mulligan and the outcome of their discussions could have serious repercussions for the Association.

To its credit, the Tyrone county board moved quickly to deal with the incident at Healy Park.

The board has already confirmed that the individual who spat at Karl Lacey has been banned and of course manager Mickey Harte and county chairman Ciaran McLaughlin both visited the Donegal dressing-room immediately after the game to apologise profusely for what occurred.

This mini-epidemic of spitting grossly tarnishes the GAA at a time when it is battling the ongoing recession, rampant emigration which is denuding clubs and counties of some of their best players and increased competition from other sports particularly rugby. Indiscipline has, of course, been a big problem but spitting is inexcusable – something that must be dealt with by the imposition of the harshest punishments.

Ask any player and I am certain that he will tell you that he would prefer to receive a blow from a fist rather than be spat upon – it is the ultimate insult.

With the countdown under way to the annual Congress is Derry next week, county board delegates throughout the country have been gearing up to debate a number of issues, not least those emanating from the Football Review Committee in relation to amending some of the rules in order to enhance the quality of the overall product.

But I cannot help thinking that the issue of spitting will be raised – indeed I hope it is and I trust that the message will go out from Congress that this is a cancer which could have potentially fatal consequences for the Association.

What parent will be encouraged to introduce their children to football and hurling when they read of what has taken place recently?

Admittedly, it must be emphasised that what the GAA is confronted by at the moment are allegations in relation to the Eoin Mulligan-Paul Galvin affair and Emlyn Mulligan's claims. But there is generally no smoke without fire. While it is perhaps best that we reserve jugement – and the world and his wife will have an opinion on this given the publicity it is receiving on social network sites – until the Central Competitions Control Committee has completed its investigations.

Every team manager in the country at all levels must now be doubly aware that spitting is the ultimate no-no – something that should never, ever be contemplated never mind enacted.

And one of the methods whereby this can be achieved is by ensuring that those found guilty of such a despicable offence are made to shoulder the full rigours of the disciplinary code.

Let's hope too that the happenings which have been ventilated in public this week form the sum total of such incidents. Heaven help us indeed if more come to light.

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