Sport

Farrell calls for 'sinister' activities to be tackled

Mayo's Cillian O'Connor (left) and Sligo's Pat Hughes at the launch of the GPA’s Fair Play campaign at Tailors’ Hall in Dublin on Thursday
Picture: Sportsfile
Paul Keane

PLAYERS' chief Dessie Farrell claims a number of ‘sinister’ activities, including pinching, biting and verbal abuse are becoming more common in Gaelic games and must be addressed.

The Gaelic Players Association head is keen to tackle the issue and, ultimately, make it taboo for such things to take place during games. 

Farrell was speaking at the launch of the GPA’s Fair Play campaign and also revealed the results of a recent survey of inter-county players. More than half of respondents stated they had received some sort of cynical abuse during matches, while 70 per cent said they witnessed a team-mate in this position.

One in five admitted to engaging in cynical play themselves, while 84 per cent agreed it could have a negative impact on the appeal of Gaelic games. The GPA’s Fair Play awards will be a first step towards rewarding positive actions on and off the field and Farrell believes they can dramatically reduce 'sledging' and cynical play if they act now.

“It has become a little bit sinister over the last number of years,” said Farrell.

“There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there as to what type of stuff has been said.

“There’s the verbal abuse, but there’s also the unsavoury stuff that happens around the awarding of frees at the breakdown, that sort of brawling, pulling and dragging, grabbing each other around the throat, headlocks, pinching and biting. Then there’s the whole issue of diving and feigning. It’s not rampant within the game, but 60 per cent of players thought it was a concern for us.

“So it was prudent for us to try and take a bit of a sounding from players as to where this is at and what their views are on it. The overwhelming majority of players felt it was important for players to be taking a lead role in this.”

Farrell said the aim is for cynicism to be wiped out almost completely by ‘self-policing’ players who look negatively on any instances that do occur. The issue of sledging in particular has come to the fore in recent weeks, with the Ulster championship tie between Donegal and Tyrone containing a number of spiteful exchanges.

“We need to very clearly draw that line in the stand so that this almost becomes a self-policing exercise,” said Farrell.

“So that it doesn’t need sanctions and it doesn’t need penalties, that it actually becomes taboo to engage in this sort of activity. That players will actually say, ‘Did you really say that?’ or ‘Did you really do that?’ With the advent of that type of attitude in the playing population and then obviously the supporters becoming more engaged with the players through social media and what not, the whole thing almost becomes self-policing.”

Farrell has managed Dublin minor and U21 football teams to All-Ireland titles in recent seasons and said it’s his personal sense that the time to act is now.

“My own view is that it’s probably easier to try and nip this in the bud now, before it goes any further, than trying to deal with a bigger issue or a bigger problem in four or five years’ time,” he said.

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