GAA Presidents new and old call for more considered criticism
THE incoming and outgoing Presidents of the GAA have both called for critics, especially former players, to consider the impact their words can have.
The new chief, Larry McCarthy, who has spent 36 years in New York, told Annual Congress: "One of the lessons that we might learn from the recent near collapse of democracy in the United States is that words matter. What one says matters, what one puts in the public domain matters."
The Cork native made a plea towards prominent ex-players: "I would also ask the members of 'the Critics' Collective' to realise that their comments reverberate around the echo chamber of social media.
"What is 'the Critics' Collective'? It is a term that I loosely use to describe our members who have transitioned from the playing field to the role of commentator or prognosticator on the national airwaves.
"Their comments, sometimes well-meaning, can have a huge negative impact on our players, referees, and officials.
"Nobody sets out to have a poor game, least of all the players, but it happens, and it happens on the big stage as often as not. Rest assured that the players and officials are the first people to know that they have not performed to their potential and added critique can have a distinctly negative impact not only on the player, referee or official, but on their extended families as well."
McCarthy suggested more moderation from everyone: "I would ask all of us to tone down the tenor of our public commentary. Social media has wonderful aspects to it, but there is also a dark side…
"By all means let us express an opinion, but please let's do it in a manner that is respectful. There is no place for the type of abuse that many of our players, volunteers and officials have been subjected to in recent years.
"By all means argue the point in a public discussion, but do so in a manner which does justice not only to yourself but to the GAA. If you are one of those keyboard warriors who, in cowardly fashion hides behind noms des plumes and aliases, and castigates our officials, players or referees, stop.
"Your behaviour…has a long term corrosive effect on the GAA as it discourages people from volunteering as members of our Association."
McCarthy's predecessor John Horan also had strong words for critics in his farewell address:
"Too much of what masquerades as commentary and analysis now is a fear and loathing mentality, driven at times by a social media gang mentality where people can feel brave because they are anonymous.
"Many of our members, be they volunteers, or officials have been on the receiving end of this venom and bile which exposes social media not as a tool for betterment but as a dark and dangerous place that cannot be allowed to be a form of bullying that may act as barrier to encouraging people to step up and make themselves available for volunteering or accepting positions.
"Criticism often comes with the territory. And in an organisation as big as ours, universal acceptance of an idea is maybe foolish to expect. But one thing that stood us well in my time was the ability to block out the noise and trust our gut.
"Not every decision I took was popular, but I am satisfied that, at all times, every decision was taken in what I felt was in the best interests of the Association at that time."