Northern Ireland news

Niall McGinn calls for support for players facing abuse

Northern Ireland footballer, Niall McGinn has suggested a helpline be established to help players who are subjected to racist or sectarian abuse
Seamus McKinney

NIALL McGinn has joined calls for greater support for footballers dealing with sectarian and racist abuse.

McGinn (32), who plays with Scottish club Aberdeen, spoke out after the issue was highlighted by Republic of Ireland international James McClean.

McClean criticised some of his fellow Republic players, football authorities and the media over their response to abuse directed towards him.

He said he has suffered more than any other player over the nine years he has been playing professional football in England. He made his comments while expressing support for Premier League stars Wilfried Zaha and David McGoldrick who were subjected to online racist abuse.

McClean has been subjected to frequent attacks after he refused to wear a Poppy. He was also fined two weeks wages by his club in March for posting a photograph of himself wearing a balaclava beside two children with the caption “Today's school lesson – history”. He later apologised for the post.

In 2011, Royal Mail intercepted packages containing bullets sent by loyalists to then Celtic player McGinn, the club's manager Neil Lennon and fellow player Paddy McCourt.

McGinn told BBC's Talkback programme he has suffered abuse from a minority of fans.

“It's just abuse all the time. Yes, don't get me wrong, it always is a small minority but you're getting called a Fenian whatever and it is hard to take at times,” he said.

He also revealed that his mother was a first cousin of Martin Hurson, who died on hunger strike in 1981. He said that while the abuse was worse when he played for Celtic, it persisted.

"You have different songs sung at different games regarding the hunger strikers and that can be quite hurtful. Although I was young and didn't experience too much of that growing up, different things like that are always hard to hear and take under your wing.

“You just have to try and manage it and keep moving forward,” he said.

McGinn said that while he received support from his clubs, he believed more should be done to help players subjected to abuse. He suggested a helpline could be established to help players deal with abuse.

“That's probably in James's (McClean) situation now where he needs people to go and speak to and needs people to hear him,” he said.

He also called on social media companies to do more to deal with online abuse.

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