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Let players have a much bigger say, insists Down manager Sheehan

 

Sounding off: Ronan Sheehan believes players should have stronger media links
Sounding off: Ronan Sheehan believes players should have stronger media links
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Down hurling boss Ronan Sheehan has fired a verbal broadside at managers and other officials who refuse to allow the media to have access to players on a wider front.

Sheehan, whose side face Kildare on Sunday conscious that victory would thrust them into the frame for possible promotion from Division 2B, is adamant that there is a growing demand from the wider GAA public to hear the views of current inter-county players in particular.

And he takes issue with those managers who might limit a team's media exposure to just one player in the build-up to and in the aftermath of major league and championship games.

"At the end of the day, the profile of the GAA is very important so players should be encouraged to talk to the media," he says.

"They are intelligent young men for the most part and they are not going to say anything stupid. I also maintain that this would be good practice for the lads as well in terms of job interviews and things like that happening in their lives," insists Sheehan, who is a Strategic Planning Manager with the Lloyds Banking Group.

He is particularly keen that club players should also be allowed to have their say in public, arguing that in many instances in recent years they have helped to thrust their teams into the national spotlight, yet have been denied the opportunity to articulate their views on football or hurling.

"I think part of the problem is some managers almost want to hide their players away from the media," insists Sheehan.

"These young men only have a certain shelf life as players themselves, particularly those who are county players.

"Even worse, you might have a club that is strongly in contention for a provincial title, which might only happen once in, say, 15 years, so the opportunity to build the profile of the club is very small.

"The opportunity to extol the virtues of their club should not be denied to the players because, when you think about it, if you hear a player being interviewed and he comes over as a mature, grounded individual irrespective of his age, you will remember that lad when you see his face again."

With more and more players defecting from county squads for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are travel, relocation in terms of employment and disenchantment with a manager's selection process, Sheehan feels that players should be allowed to come more to the fore in expressing their feelings.

"I believe their views can carry considerable impact," maintains Sheehan.

"After all, they are at the coal face, they are putting their bodies on the line, they are taking the hard knocks, so why shouldn't they have their say?

"In my opinion, there are very few journalists who have a Machiavellian approach or would try and manipulate a young lad into saying something that they don't really want to say."

And Sheehan perhaps reserves his greatest criticism for what he feels is the "cliché ridden" material that is so part and parcel of the GAA just now.

"People are sick reading cliché-ridden stuff like 'Oh, we are only taking it one game at a time' or 'We know we have to hit the ground running'.

"What people want to know is the things that are happening within county squads in particular without overstepping the limits of diplomacy and good manners," states Sheehan.

"These very same people are paying good money to go and see games in all sorts of weather, so surely they are entitled to hear a greater range of views and feelings expressed by the players they admire.

"Let me say I am very, very strong on this.

"We should be allowing our players to speak to the media because this is how we build the profile of the sports we all love.

"It's also a great way for the public to get to know the players better and because of the faith I have in players I believe that they will gain even greater respect from the fans through expressing their sincerely-held views."

Sheehan is adamant that his views should apply to women's games too.

"I think when you look at the exposure that is currently being given to ladies football and camogie, those players should be encouraged in their dealings with the media," observes Sheehan.

"In this way they can help attract more players to the sports and help to bring them to the attention of the wider public.

"The reality is, what harm are they going to do by talking to the media?

"If you are reliant on keeping players away from the media as part of your 'game strategy' or whatever, you're in a bad place.

"At the end of the day what are they going to say that could be interpreted as classified information?

"Very little, I would imagine."

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