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GAA President - 'We abhor any form of abuse of our players, whether it be racial or sectarian'

‘We abhor any form of abuse of our players,’ says GAA President Liam O’Neill.

GAA President Liam O'Neill.
GAA President Liam O'Neill.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THE GAA WANT to adopt tougher sanctions against those guilty of racial or sectarian abuse of players.

Last February’s GAA Congress saw the introduction of red cards as punishment for either racist or sectarian abuse.

The issue has been placed under the spotlight following allegations that comments of an abusive nature were made during a recent Dr McKenna Cup match between Cavan and Monaghan.

Four players were sent-off during the game with Monaghan’s Drew Wylie and Paul Finlay and Cavan’s Gearoid McKiernan dismissed during the second-half and Cavan’s Niall McDermott sent-off on a double yellow card in an unrelated incident.

Ulster GAA chiefs revealed over the weekend that Wylie had received a personal apology by a player ‘for his comments which had been accepted’. The incident is believe to be the first instance where a red card was deployed as punishment for either racist or sectarian abuse.

Drew Wylie 28/6/2014 Monaghan's Drew Wylie. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

GAA President Liam O’Neill is now keen for tougher sanctions to be adopted.

“The rule that was acted on that you get the red card for an incident of racist or sectarian abuse and the referee correctly applied the rule in this case. The rule at the moment is competition specific. We now accept that it’s not adequate.

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“There will be a motion to Congress to strengthen that rule and increase the punishment. We recognise that we have a responsibility to do it and we don’t want anyone else that’s in this position to suffer the indignity of abuse like that.

“It demeans the person who is the recipient but also I think it embarrasses us all, nobody wants this. We accept our responsibility that as it stands, even though we thought we had it covered, we hadn’t and we’re prepared to take immediate action.”

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

O’Neill also wants players or supporters guilty of such offences to embark on an education programme but accepts it could be difficult to ‘enshrine that in law’.

“I feel that when a player says something of this nature he should have to go on some sort of a programme, human relations or racial relations, where he would learn how to behave towards other people.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable that anybody should be abused in this manner and I think there should be a re-education process. I’m not quite sure yet whether we can enshrine that in law. We would also see it in a situation where if supporters do it, that we would like the unit who is responsible for the supporters, to hold a course in their club to re-educate people.


“We abhor any form of abuse of our players, whether it be racial or sectarian or on body size or anything that somebody can’t change. You can’t change your religion, you can’t change your ethnic origin and sometimes you can’t change your body size. Any insult like that is reprehensible.

“I would be quite happy to say I’m delighted to get the opportunity to convey our regret to the player involved. We regret it terribly. The organisation is upset about it, I’m upset about it and on behalf of the organisation I would just like to say we’re very, very sorry it happened to him.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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