Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Ulster GAA chief calls for end to sideline melees

Fighting broke out among Cork and Armagh players in their league game earlier this month

A leading GAA official has called for order to be restored to the sideline chaos which prevails at so many GAA matches because of the expansion of backroom teams.

Addressing his provincial convention on matters of indiscipline, Ulster president Aoghan Farrell made his comments on the weekend that the Central Hearings Committee hit Cork with the loss of home advantage for their next home league match as punishment for their players' involvement in a melee when they played Armagh in the opening round.



After initially hinting at appealing that CHC decision, Cork now look like they will accept the sanction.



Monaghan have already indicated that they will appeal after being hit with the same penalty following a melee during their match against Kildare in Clones.



In both cases, the Central Competition Controls Committee had proposed €5,000 fines, but Cork and Monaghan chose to challenge that, sought hearings and clearly came off worse.



Kildare and Armagh both accepted fines after learning of Monaghan's fate last week.



It's clear that the CHC are determined to get tougher with county players who engage in what is termed 'disorderly behaviour'.



Farrell doesn't believe indiscipline is a "particularly acute problem" in the GAA but admits that, when it happens, it "diminishes all of us in the Association".



And he sees the growing numbers of officials on the sideline as a problem.



"Our sidelines are overcrowded with an ever-growing number of advisers, experts, statisticians and well-meaning enthusiasts. At far too many games there are two teams on the pitch and two more on the sideline," he said.



"I urge county officers to implement the rules and guidelines on match officials at our games."



In 2006, the GAA sought to introduce stricter guidelines for the numbers permitted on the sidelines and had planned to keep selectors and other members of the coaching staff back in the stands where possible.



However, a group of managers lobbied successfully to have a series of match guidelines reversed.



Farrell also spoke of his sadness over the arguments that follow "ugly" incidents in the GAA.



"We play thousands of games without incident. The vast majority of games are pleasant - robust yes, but sporting affairs. The few nasty incidents, however, diminish all of us.



"I am saddened by arguments within the Association over the aftermath of ugly incidents. There is much debate on punishments, too harsh or not harsh enough, debate on appeals, they should, they shouldn't.



"I am saddened by the tug-o-war questioning of decisions. Arguments over how to deal with indiscipline lose sight of the real issue, the real cause of the problem, which is the original act of indiscipline itself.



"Justice must always prevail, and players dealt with unfairly or harshly deserve their rights protected. I fear that in all the debate over process we may miss the real issue and that issue is the original aggressive act when it occurs.



"We must be vigilant. I don't believe we have a particularly acute problem with indiscipline in the GAA, but when it does arise, we must all condemn it. Counties should ensure justice and fair play for their members but should never defend the indefensible."



Addressing delegates, many of whom hold administrative posts in the nine Ulster counties, he said that when they challenge decisions it "sends out all the wrong messages."



Ulster has been hit badly with incidents of indiscipline over the last 12 months. These include:



  • An attack on a referee after an Antrim U-21 match.


  • Attacks on a referee and a county official after a ladies match in Tyrone.


  • Shameful scenes during the Tyrone league final between Dromore and Carrickore when a supporter had his ear bitten during a row in the stands.


  • Derrytresk's involvement in the All-Ireland Club JFC semi-final fracas in Portlaoise.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk