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Vile practice of 'sledging' is not part of GAA

By John Campbell

The GAA justifiably cherishes its family ethos which is viewed as the bedrock of what is the biggest sporting organisation on this island.

And nowhere is it more active than in seeking to capture the hearts and minds of young people in particular in an era in which competition from other sports has seldom been more robust.

Yet it would be no exaggeration to suggest that the very fabric of the association is currently under threat from the insidious practice of 'sledging'.

Certainly, the bad-mouthing of opponents on the field of play has, sadly, always been with us.

But when Sean Cavanagh, one of the greatest-ever players who has spent 13 years in the top flight amassing a shoal of honours in the process, concedes that verbal abuse has become "very, very personal" then it is clear that a grave danger is being posed to a sport that is not so much loved as utterly worshipped by the vast majority of those involved.

And when this is compounded by the revelation that a minor player was taunted during a match about the death of his father from cancer, then those oft-repeated banal excuses such as 'It's all part of the game' or 'These things are said in the heat of the moment' become truly stomach-churning.

The GAA's admirable 'Respect' initiative took a pounding at Ballybofey on Sunday and as things stand looks set to absorb a further pummelling.

Let's face it, it seems no amount of TV cameras, match officials or eagle-eyed pundits are capable of discerning the miscreants who engage in the despicable practice of 'sledging'.

So the integrity, resolve and authority of team managers appear to be the only resort in the bid to combat this evil.

Indeed, just as in any family, the head of the household must give the correct guidance - or the family will flounder.

Belfast Telegraph

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