There’s a certain section of the GAA which follows the rule of Omerta…

Fascinating contribution on the Nolan Show just now from sports writer Terry McLaughlin talking about some of the extreme violence that can break out on the football pitch (though, Ulster Hockey has a less widely known reputation for mixing it on the pitch too). Intriguingly he notes that there is some reluctance to go to civic authorities to gain some redress for what in some cases are little less than aggravated assault.

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  • Neil

    Intriguingly he notes that there is some reluctance to go to civic authorities to gain some redress for what in some cases are little less than aggravated assault.

    Much like many other sports. I’ve played in countless football matches where someone has received a slap during the game. I’ve yet to see someone complain to the cops over this, a red card is punishment enough generally.

    Interesting use of the word omerta though, pandering to the many who feel that mafia terms and the GAA go hand in hand, despite the exact same scenario occurring on amateur pitches across the country on a daily basis in a variety of sports.

  • Mick Fealty

    You can see it that way. Or a legacy of anti state feeling in the organisation. But there is a problem with violence especially at the club end of the game.

  • JR

    In my experiance many victims of assault on a GAA pitch feel they get more satisfaction from dealing with it after the pub on a Saturday night. This has the benifit of encouraging people to drink local.

  • andnowwhat

    Hurling and Gaelic football are tough sports shocker!!!

    A player running to the authorities would be looked at unfavourably not because he broke some “omerta” but because it would be seen as unmanly, whingy.

    For the alternative, see premiership soccer where players seem to fall down if the wind changes direction. No thanks

  • Dec

    ‘Or a legacy of anti state feeling in the organisation. ‘

    Or a legacy of the ‘macho’ culture in sports? Probably the worst assault I witnessed in a sporting occasion last year was the walloping Chris Ashton received in a live Rugby Union premiership match. Violence occurs in most team sports without recourse to the authorities (there’s regular bench-clearing brawls in Baseball, for example and basketball fans will remember the ‘Malice in the Palace’ from a few years back) so singling out the GAA (which has the same difficulties) is particularly unfair.

  • Kevin Barry

    ‘fascinating contribution’

    Not really Mick. Your theory that this is due to anti-state sentiment would be reason number 2 while the fact that all sporting associations prefer to deal with all matters of ill discipline in-house would be reason number 1 for all sporting associations and this would be the massively, over arching reason.

    Enjoy your holidays

  • andnowwhat

    Memory plays tricks on us all but as I cast my mind back to my hurling days, I’m pretty sure it was worse then. Furthermore, I’d say that one got away with a lot more back in the day.

  • Its certainly true but less sinister than Mr McLaughlin thinks. Ive seen some fights at rugby games and rugby league games and theres always a marked relunctance to get culprits banned or worse.
    As to crowd violence, well Ive stood with 25,000 people at Casement Park where the crowds mingled and no sign of “violence” and according to PSNI (via a leading GAA figure who speaks to recruits at Garnerville) the GAA is easily policed.
    Of course “club games” are particuarly featured in the original post.
    Certainly thats true. Ive been at matches between Belfast clubs in the 1970s and 1980s which got a bit tasty on the sideline.
    And Ive attended hurling matches in North Antrim which got even testier. Sheesh they dont like Belfast people up there.

    But I dont see any harm in 99% of it. The only real downside as far as I can see is that theres a legacy of animosity between clubs which filters thru into “divides” in county teams. Its one reason why (no pun intended) Antrim cant punch their weight.
    And frankly there is an under-representation of North Armagh clubs in the Armagh team, which is I think related to too many clubs in North Armagh. Animosity (and I have personal experience) between clubs is not just as ritually amusing as I used to think.

    But I think at times the GAA takes itself much too seriously. Transfers are still frowned upon as “disloyal”. Try getting an under-10 player transferred from one club to another.
    Ive seen some pathetic nonsense that while not violent lead to an atmosphere of unpleasantness. Ive been in “our” dugout at an under-age game where word filtered thru from the other mentors (sheesh the GAA loves its mentors) that they would claim the points because the team sheet (under 10 or under 12 whatever) was signed by an unauthorised person.
    Actually the authorised person (as the other lot knew) had just had a parent die the night before.
    Thats the kinda mutual distrust that exists. …for the duration of a game.
    Certainly when my younger son came home from an under 14 game he appeared more excited. Not only he won……but the other lot were waiting for them outside the dressing room. His first GAA punch up. And I missed it.
    All I could do was ask him to remember the date. Because the mutual folk memory will tip over into school, university, work, discos and maybe even his wedding reception, where he will again (and has) met the same lads all over again…..obviously not violently.
    Usually nobody can remember where these things “start” but they have a tendency to last a long time.

    Yes GAA does have a problem with machismo (the women are the worst) and “omerta” and offialdom and endless pointless committees. And I wont ever make light of really violent issues. But it stretches things to say that there is an anti-state legacy.
    Thats hardly applicable south of the Border.
    Nor is it applicable when FF and FG descendents of pro-and anti Treaty folks play in same teams against similarly composed teams. Indeed isnt the GAA largely responsible for mending the civil war wounds.

    Yet one of the most violent sporting occasions I ever attended was a football match in Moat (?) Park at Dundonald. I must emphasise the actual team were great.
    We have this peculiar attitude that some sports Soccer (Gerry Armstrong blah blah blah) and Rugby unite us. And our sporting heroes like Mary Peters, Alex Higgins, George Best, Darren Clarke, Barry McGuigan, Eddie Irvine and wee Rory unified us all.
    Unfortunately its only half true.

  • Mick Fealty

    Rugby in the flow of the game is worse, and the injuries that result can be horrendous. But it’s the off the ball (or downright illegal) stuff that needs sorting in GAA. That’s why I alluded to Hockey (which in its Ulster outcropping is pretty aggressive).

    Going to the cops won’t sort that culture out. But if more people thought it was a more tangible possiblity….

  • @Mick

    “But there is a problem with violence especially at the club end of the game.”

    Do you attend many club fixtures Mick? If not, perhaps you would care to expand on why you feel there is a “problem”, at least relative to other major participation contact sports.

  • Kevin Barry

    ‘ But it’s the off the ball (or downright illegal) stuff that needs sorting in GAA.’

    In your honest opinion of course.

    Whether you like it or not Mick (you don’t by the sounds of things) this is what we call part of the game or ‘letting the other man know you are there’, and has been alluded to above by annowwhat, it was a whole lot worse back in the fabled day.

    It does come across that you haven’t played much of any GAA sport as in the main, you’re seemingly trying to paint a picture of club football or hurling that doesn’t exist in reality.

    As someone who played football in North Armagh for many a year, I’m all too familiar with a sly dig in the stomach, both given and taken, but where I think you miss the point is that for the vast majority of people we know where the mythical line is, where you go from hard nosed gamesmanship to being downright dirty and unsportsmanlike.

    Unfortunately, bringing what happens on the field in the white heat of sporting battle into a court room is very rarely a good idea as it will lose all context.

    Should very serious matters be brought to court, yes, but in the main and to try and put this in some kind of subtle context which your post does not, 99.99% of incidents are seemingly innocuous and part of the game.

  • The Bush Ranger

    The attack that stands out for me over the last few years was the one on Kevin Nugent.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/northern_ireland/gaelic_games/8743095.stm

    I understand that these are contact sports but those injuries from an off the ball incident are criminal. As Mick suggests the problem seems to lie at the club level rather than county. A few weeks ago the ref was attacked at a game and made the news?

    From football I can remember a Larne(?) game gaining police attention and I remember an Irish player going into the crowd at an Ulster away game once but its seems from my perspective that such levels of public disorder are rarer in both football and rugby.

  • andnowwhat

    Why would you want to give some guy a criminal record, with all the problems that follow, even if he is being an arse?

    The conviction declaration on a job application does not ask for too many details, just enough to possibly disqualify one from a perspective job.

    Re rugby; my mind turns to episodes of players stamping others with their studs, truely horrifying, not within the loosest understanding of the game.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    This thread is out-and-out Taig-bashing.

    Clearly Mick hasn’t been anywhere near a club game, perhaps ever.

    Every single weekend there are literally hundreds of club games across Ireland, from u10 through to over 40s, in football (male and female), hurling and camogie. Every few months we get a news story about some act of thuggery in one of them.

    Over the course of literally thousands of games, you’re going to have unedifying incidents cropping up occasionally. How does this ratio compare with other sports?

    As for the reference to ‘omerta’ – frankly, I spit on it.

    Are rugby players renowned for running to the police every time they get punched or stamped or raked on the field? I’ve seen hair-raising violence on the rugby pitch, much more serious than anything I’ve seen in Gaelic games, but I’ve never heard of a rugby player pressing charges after the game is over.

    But of course that’s different, because Gaelic games are played by taigs, and sure don’t we all know what them lawless animals are like. Nudge nudge.

  • Kevin Barry

    Billy,

    I think you’re being a bit harsh on Mick, but in all fairness, he does come across as someone speaking from a point of complete ignorance on this subject matter, though I’m sure he will be back to tell us otherwise.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I don’t really think the ‘omerta’ reference is appropriate but would completely agree with Mick that there is an inappropriate culture of turning a blind eye to wanton violence within the GAA which needs to be faced up to and sorted out.

    This is a problem which is entirely in the gift of the GAA authorities to resolve by adopting a zero tolerance attitude to perpetrators of violence, be they players or ‘supporters.’

    First up should be the Tyrone GAA, which should ban those implicated in the Carrickmore club’s violent attacks on the Ladies GAA officials from any association with the club for male or female sports.

    Hiding behind legal distinctions between the women’s game and men’s game is, quite frankly, ridiculous and contemptible.

    Players raising their hands should be immediately sent off and subject to suspensions which remove them from selection from subsequent competitive fixtures without appeal.

    Mick is entirely correct to point out the unacceptable levels of tolerance exhibited by GAA people towards violence which should have no part of the game.

    Instead of reacting defensively and interpreting it as an attack on nationalist culture, GAA fans (of which I include myself) should have the self-confidence to accept what is a statement of fact and seek ways of dealing with it decisively to the betterment of the games.

  • We’re talking about the fastest games in the world here so high level of mental pressure in a sport which is naturally aggressive in itself is bound to overflow in a few cases. soccer is pedestrian in comparison.

  • sonofstrongbow

    “This thread is out-and-out Taig-bashing”. That seems to happen on the pitch and (shock, horror) is handed out by other ‘Taigs’.

    Pathetic attempt to try to run rugby and football as defence for the unsavory aspects of GAA. It was only a few weeks ago that a referee was punched unconscious at a ‘game’ and the assault continued when he was on the ground. Bit of parish rivalry?

    There is little doubt that anti-police feelings exist widely in the GAA north of the border and the PSNI’s attempt to join the fun of these games played, as Mr Pilgrim points out, by ‘taigs’ is pretty sad. (I wonder if the police has its own Orange Lodge – Loyal Sons of Baggot LOL999 perhaps?)

  • turnpike

    A ‘sport’ that has been in existence for over 100 years and they haven’t even worked out how players can tackle/win the ball off each other.

    Given the low value placed on human life from the sport’s participants/supporters etc you have to expect a bit of rough and tumble.

  • Kevin Barry

    Chris,

    I’m going to have to cheerfully disagree with you on much of what you have said.

    ‘Players raising their hands should be immediately sent off and subject to suspensions which remove them from selection from subsequent competitive fixtures without appeal.’

    Why no appeal Chris? Though, granted, anytime I have been caught raising my hands in anger I have been sent off and that has been the case in any game I have played or been to.

    ‘Mick is entirely correct to point out the unacceptable levels of tolerance exhibited by GAA people towards violence which should have no part of the game.’

    Define ‘violence’? I get the impression that what I would call being hard headed and not shying away from a tackle you may consider violent, but then again, I play in North Armagh which plays a particularly physical variety of football. If you play some team from Antrim, you notice immediately that they aren’t as ‘cute’ as others.

    ‘Instead of reacting defensively and interpreting it as an attack on nationalist culture, GAA fans (of which I include myself) should have the self-confidence to accept what is a statement of fact and seek ways of dealing with it decisively to the betterment of the games.’

    I agree with this Chris, but then again when someone references the word omerta to try and say that the GAA should be more proactive in stopping off the ball physicality and then proceeds to cite that they believe that the GAA does not go like going to the authorities about what happens on the pitch due to ‘a legacy of anti state feeling’ as opposed to the fact that it does not like to do so south of the border either or like any other sporting association, it does make his thread seem a bit like an attack on nationalist culture.

    But, perhaps the most glaring point is this, I don’t believe Mick goes to or has been to too many GAA club games, I find his writing on this subject matter to be from a point of ignorance and as Ulick has asked ‘perhaps [Mick] would care to expand on why [he] feel there is a “problem”, at least relative to other major participation contact sports.’

    I also found Mick’s comparison with rugby to be an interesting one (Stephen Ferris and eye gouging anyone?) As much as I hate whataboutery, I am reminded of a piece I read in the now defunct Sunday Tribune from then rugby columnist Mick Galwey. The main picture was of a 20 something man with a rather large imprint on his face from a size 13 boot, where I could clearly make out the numerous stud marks. Mick (Galwey btw) proceeded to make much of the same points about how each sporting body in the South hated any kind of outside interference in their affairs and he questioned whether this was a good idea and should continue. Now, if Mick (Fealty) wanted to open a debate on trying to curb off the ball violence then by all means, cite what happened in Tyrone (btw, a bloody disgrace in my books but that’s Tyrone ones for you), but what you and Mick Fealty may perceive to be a problem of ‘violence’ in the GAA for one man is in the main, being hard headed and physical for most and is not confined to merely one code. Thuggery, which happened in Tyrone, is on the other hand completely unacceptable and thankfully is not the norm.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chris

    ‘…there is an inappropriate culture of turning a blind eye to wanton violence within the GAA…’

    Sorry, but that’s bollocks. Just bollocks.

    ‘This is a problem which is entirely in the gift of the GAA authorities to resolve by adopting a zero tolerance attitude to perpetrators of violence, be they players or ‘supporters.’

    The GAA does have a zero-tolerance attitude to perpetrators of violence. If a player raises his hands, he gets banned for a month. If a player kicks another player, he gets at least three months, maybe six, depending on the severity of the incident. Touch a referee and you get six months. (Paul Galvin got three months for touching the referee’s notebook.) Touch a referee violently, and you’ll get at least a year, more commonly three.

    If a non-player does any of this, he’ll get at least a three-year ban. In very serious cases, it’ll be a lifetime ban. Such a ban means that the person can’t participate in any fashion in the GAA, can’t attend a game, even at Croke Park, and can’t even go for a drink in a GAA social club.

    What more would you have the GAA do?

    ‘Hiding behind legal distinctions between the women’s game and men’s game is, quite frankly, ridiculous and contemptible.’

    It isn’t a ‘legal distinction’. The GAA and the Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association are entirely separate organisations. the LGFA has dealt with the incident, which happened under their jurisdiction, with appropriate severity.

    It’s up to you to explain what you think the GAA, the IFA, the FAI, the IRFU, the GUI, Irish hockey, Irish boxing, Irish Lawn Tennis Association and whatever other organisation, should do about these individuals, for what they did at an event run by a separate sporting organisation.

    Personally, I don’t think it would be fair to blame any sporting organisation for what happens at games they had nothing to do with organising.

    ‘Players raising their hands should be immediately sent off and subject to suspensions which remove them from selection from subsequent competitive fixtures without appeal.’

    Apart from the ‘without appeal’ bit, this is exactly what happens now.

    Strongbow óg

    I’ll ask again: are rugby players renowned for running to the police every time they get punched or stamped or raked on the field?

    And do you really think that the emergence of a PSNI team is ‘sad?’

    I think it’s wonderful.

    Kevin Barry

    ‘I play in North Armagh which plays a particularly physical variety of football.’

    Things must have changed in the last ten years. When I was playing, youse boys from the north of the county were nothing but a bunch of yapping jessies…

  • Kevin Barry

    Very good Billy, re North Armagh boys but, more importantly, on your points raised.

    I’ll take it your from the middle or the south of the county? I was trying to make a comparison with football played in Antrim in general where I suspect Chris may be from, but things have greatly improved up here, thank you very much. I always thought our football was a bit too cerebral or trying to emulate Down football what with ones playing at Violet Hill. It was only when we (the county in general) married physicality with some intelligent football and were lead by the one and only ‘Geezer’ that we came of age and deservedly won an All Ireland.

    The only difference between a teacher and someone who plays for Antrim at county level is the latter gets longer off during the summer

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Kevin Barry

    Very good!

    Only teasing about the north Armagh thing, of course. From Alf Murray to Diarmuid Marsden, there’s a long line of legends from the north of the county.

  • carl marks

    turnpike
    “Given the low value placed on human life from the sport’s participants/supporters etc you have to expect a bit of rough and tumble.”

    This is a truly disgraceful and statement, can you back it up in any way,

  • carl marks

    sorry should have read,
    This is a truly disgraceful statement, can you back it up in any way,

  • Neil

    turnpike
    “Given the low value placed on human life from the sport’s participants/supporters etc you have to expect a bit of rough and tumble.”

    This is a truly disgraceful and statement, can you back it up in any way,

    An example of the section of the community that using words like ‘omerta’ to describe people not ringing the police for on the field sports violence panders to.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Neil

    Hear hear.

    Mick blew the dog whistle, and out they came.

    As I said, this thread was pure taig-baiting from the start.

  • andnowwhat

    Neil, there’s a thing I’ve observed on Slugger, other forums and in NI in general. I call it July disease.

    It presents as normal people who spend 11 months of the year being or pretending to be moderate in their views and yet, come the end of June, something strikes them.