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The recent controversy over the alleged hurling of “racist” abuse at Ulster footballers has highlighted the problem of ‘sledging’ in the GAA.
Eamonn Seoige, 15 May 2012
A recent well-publicised incident in a National League fixture drew attention to a distasteful practice that is unfortunately increasingly common on the playing fields of Ireland.
Armagh defender Ciaran McKeever, dismissed at half-time for kicking a Laois player, subsequently accused the same opponent of “racist and personal” abuse.
In a statement issued by the Armagh County Board, it was claimed that McKeever was called a ‘British bastard’ and had God Save The Queen hummed mockingly in his direction.
Unsurprisingly, a media storm ensued. Subsequently, the allegations were withdrawn by Armagh. But the issue was serious enough for the GAA’s Director General Páraic Duffy to get involved.
In cricket, the term for this practice of using verbal abuse to upset an opponent is “sledging”. Call it what you will, it is an unsavoury tactic that seems to be on the rise in Gaelic games. Its prevalence was highlighted by the Donegal All-Star, Kevin Cassidy, in This Is Our Year, a book on the progress of the nine Ulster teams in the 2011 All Ireland Championship, written by Declan Bogue, which was named the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year in 2011.
In his contribution to the book, Cassidy revealed how certain members of the Donegal team had watched an American footballer “trash-talking” on YouTube and decided to adopt it as a tactic. In the ensuing furore, Cassidy was dumped from the Donegal panel by manager Jim McGuinness. One assumes that the trash-talking has continued.
So is there anything that can be done to prevent sledging? Is it a passing fad or an issue that needs to be faced down?
Ross Carr, an All-Ireland winning great with Down, leaves me in no doubt as to what he thinks of the tactic.
“It really turns my stomach,” he says. “How do you control it? I find any form of sledging pathetic, cowardly, and calling someone a ‘British bastard’ or whatever shows an unbelievable level of ignorance, while making snide, derogatory comments about members of someone’s family is equally bad. I never experienced much sledging during my playing days, but it seems to be becoming more common.