Allegations of north-south abuse in Wicklow-Derry NHL game

There was an allegation of north-south abuse directed at a Derry hurler during their recent NHL game with Wicklow. Both sides clash in this weekend's League decider

THE GAA has said it is determined to deal with on-pitch north-south abuse but that counties themselves have to aid the process following allegations of another incident last weekend.

The Irish News understands that a Derry player was subjected to comments from a Wicklow player during the sides’ Allianz Hurling League Division 2B clash in Ballinascreen.

The alleged incident was not mentioned in the referee’s report and has not been reported to the GAA by Derry County Board, while Wicklow chairman Martin Fitzgerald said they were “unaware of any incident”. 

A spokesperson for Derry County Board said: “The GAA has established processes in place to deal with any alleged incidents of sectarian abuse.”

It follows similar accusations arising from Cushendall’s defeat by St Thomas’ in the All-Ireland club semi-final last month, while it’s understood comments were also made to an Antrim hurler in an Allianz League game earlier this year.

The GAA’s rulebook categorises “an act by deed, word or gesture of a racist, sectarian or anti-inclusion/diversity nature” as a Category IV offence, which carries a minimum two-match ban if proven.

GAA director of communications Alan Milton confirmed that no investigation has been opened into the allegations. He says that the association is “deadly serious” about dealing with this kind of cultural/political abuse, but that no action can be taken unless incidents are reported through official channels.

“It’s exactly the same as racism, we’re deadly serious about it when you can prove that it happened. But if nobody brings it to our attention, we can’t investigate it.

“It’s difficult to make it stand up unless a third party has heard it. If it’s brought to our attention, the GAA will be rigorous in looking into it and will do everything we can to eradicate it.

“In the balance of fairness and in natural law, it’s a really tricky situation. This has to be challenged through education, and that’s not going to bring short-term results.

“If nobody brings it to our attention, we don’t have anywhere to go. It has to be brought to our attention through the official channels, that’s how the GAA works.

“There have to be protocols, and those are that the aggrieved party brings it to our attention. Then we know there’s something to investigate.

“A process has to start somewhere, and somebody has to bring it to our attention, whether it’s a match official, the aggrieved party or someone else in close proximity to an incident.

“It’s an internal GAA matter and it’s up to internal GAA units to take a stance when they see this unacceptable behaviour. When that happens, the GAA will respond to the best of its ability.

“It has no part in our games, and no part in life.”

Derry and Wicklow are set to meet again this weekend in the Division 2B final, which will take place in Inniskeen on Sunday afternoon.

Wicklow won last weekend’s meeting 2-16 to 0-16 to inflict a first defeat of the year on John McEvoy’s side.

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