Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

GAA: Women’s game has to clean up its act

Referee Simon Brady is stretchered away after suffering concussion following the ladies Tyrone county final between Carrickmore and Augher

The Ulster Ladies Football Council is anxious to see a line drawn under the controversial incidents which followed the recent Tyrone county final between Carrickmore and St Macartan’s Augher.

Officials fear that the overall image of the sport could be tainted and it is understood that there are moves afoot to encourage clubs to shoulder greater responsibility in ensuring the safety of match officials as well as players and other administrators.

The Tyrone Ladies Board has come in for praise for the prompt manner in which it has dealt with those responsible for the assaults on referee Simon Brady and ladies board chairman Martin Conway following the county final.

Both men sustained injuries and now an ongoing police investigation into the incidents is being viewed as a warning to the GAA that such happenings can have serious repercussions on all fronts.

Lifetime bans are rare within the GAA — indeed it is known that they are difficult to police properly — but the Tyrone administrators have not hesitated to invoke the ultimate sanction, thus implementing the rules that are laid down in their official handbook.

It is understood that such bans can be subject to appeal.

Ladies football has made tremendous inroads at grassroots level in the province in recent years with many clubs having purchased land and developed new pitches at considerable expense to accommodate the numbers spanning all age groups seeking to become involved in the sport.

And with teams benefiting from lucrative sponsorship deals and engaging in novel fund-raising ventures, ladies football now enjoys a degree of autonomy that a few years ago might not have been thought possible.

Yet it still remains under the overall GAA banner, a thriving sport the annual highlight of which is the All-Ireland final now staged with considerable pomp and ceremony at Croke Park.

Tyrone is one county in which the growth of the ladies game has been little short of phenomenal and last night PRO Paddy Hunter acknowledged that the image of the sport must now be fully restored.

“Incidents such as those which blighted our county final can have an adverse impact on a sport and it is now essential that we go forward in a positive frame of mind.

“Exemplary behaviour both on and off the field is essential to the well-being of any particular sport and we have absorbed lessons from what has happened,” says Hunter.

“You cannot legislate for something like this taking place. We all recognise that in the heat of the moment things can happen but they can have very severe ramifications for all concerned.”

It is understood that both the Augher and Carrickmore clubs have thrown their weight behind Tyrone’s bid to win the Ulster senior championship title tomorrow when they meet Monaghan in the final at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones.

“It is important that there is a display of solidarity as this will show the real strength of the ladies body overall.

“Ladies football has been getting a very high profile lately — the Armagh v Monaghan game took place immediately prior to the Tyrone v Monaghan Ulster senior football tie at Healy Park, Omagh for instance — but players, officials and fans have to be very much aware that they are in the shop window,” adds Hunter.

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