Violence inside the wire must be confronted

Nobody likes any columnist to be overly dramatic, and when there are people losing their jobs hand over fist in manufacturing and construction and the economic prospects for the country appear to be very bleak, issues of sport can rightly be put on the back boiler.

However sometimes the nettle has to be grasped and important problems addressed. And serious violence in and after GAA games is one that cannot, and should not, be brushed under the carpet.

GBH or assault should be treated the same if it happens inside the wire of a GAA/soccer/rugby pitch as it is on a street in any town in the country on a Saturday night.

Last Sunday morning after many of us had attended mass or taken the kids to the playground or to feed the swans, put on the roast or whatever you’re having yourself, people went to see their local club in action.

In Pearse Stadium, in Galway cit, An Spideal took on the Aran Islands in the Junior A championship replay.

The stakes were high and there was tension at the ground. The men from the mainland won a tight contest by two points and those in attendance thought that was that. Let’s go home and tackle the roast.

However instead, we had a massive brawl with some players and selectors taking some serious and vicious blows. One man was kicked in the ribs as he was being helped to the ground after being struck in the face. Another player was set upon and beaten by more than one assailant.

Now I am a GAA man all my life and hope to continue to be so for the next few decades if God spares me, and I am around the place to do so, however no sane or rational individual could condone and not totally condemn the scenes that were witnessed in Pearse Stadium last weekend.

And Galway is not alone in such sickened violence.

We have seen the serious sanctions that the Derry county board imposed on some of their clubs and some individuals recently. It is only correct that people are held responsible for their actions and a 96 week ban is the minimum that a member of a club should receive if he has been involved in assaulting other members of the association.

There is a new horrible breed of violence and aggression that seems to have become extremely prevalent in Irish society and it manifests itself very quickly and dangerously in the sporting arena.

I spoke at length to a member of the Gardai yesterday and he confirmed to me that a lot of the violent incidents that take place in many Irish towns and cities on a Saturday night could be avoided if people just kept a cool head and walked away from confrontation. Instead there is a macho - “I’ll show him. I’ll burst his chops for him” - attitude that can be extremely difficult to diffuse and leads to people attending A&E units.

After all if you get two thick men or more, high on alcohol or passion for their cause - whatever that may be - arguing and one blow is struck, a brawl or semi-riot is the almost inevitable conclusion.

The scary thing though that has to be addressed by all sporting organisations and putting on my vested interest hat - especially the GAA, is the fact that this type of aggression, violence and verbal abuse towards referees is very predominant at under-age level too.

Indeed, I have heard of reports of u-16 and u-15 games in Galway and in other different counties having to be abandoned due to outright anarchy and fighting between the teams and indeed mentors.

Each individual county board, club, team manager and especially parents have a colossal role in setting a good example as regards what is acceptable on the field of play and on the side-line and conversely the conduct which is not.

Of course when adults cannot behave in a civilised manner and resort to beating the heads off each other after a game has concluded it is impossible to expect those that look to them for example to behave any differently. An ounce of example is worth a ton of preaching.

As regards this particularly appalling fight from last Sunday, the Galway football board have already held a meeting to discuss the outrageous behaviour of some individuals and following an extensive investigation that they are due to carry out it is expected that some severe sanctions will be handed out.

I await with interest the conclusion of that investigation and it will be extremely interesting to see what action is taken. Unless the governing body of a unit are seen to take such demonstrations of wanton violence gravely, what hope or future does the sport they administer have?

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