It can be sometimes easy to forget that the athletes we pay in to watch in Croke Park are amateurs, and perhaps the modern lines are blurred now that GAA players receive cars and sponsorship like their professional counterparts.
The fact is that the GAA was never a professional sport, and never should be. Yet as a society, we seem to now demand professional standards from GAA players.
The recent abuse that has been aimed at both players and managers has been sickening.
Cork U-21 goalkeeper Anthony Casey, who made an unfortunate error in the Rebels’ All Ireland final defeat against Mayo, received a torrent of abuse on social media for his mistake.
In an interview with the Independent, Casey revealed his disappointment;
“It’s not fair at all. I’m only 20 and it’s an amateur sport. We all have jobs. We all have girlfriends or partners or wives or children. Nasty comments can impact them too. It takes guts to go out and play for your county and then you get slaughtered by people sitting behind a phone or a keyboard.”
It’s hard to argue with the young ‘keeper. Inter-county players train vigorously for months on end, without pay, and they deserve to be supported rather than vilified or humiliated. As the Cork stopper put it;
“There are football players in the Premier League on millions that don’t get the abuse that we get.”
It is right to demand high standards from our county stars, but we must also accept that they are amateur athletes, and will have off days. It it is the amateur status and nature of the sport that makes the GAA so unique and wonderful.
Offaly hurling boss Eamonn Kelly was another recipient of vile online abuse after his side’s recent 2-22 to 1-11 hammering at the hands of Westmeath.
Offaly have since beaten Carlow, and a victory over Kerry will ensure progression to the Leinster Quarter Finals.
Kelly opened up about the abuse in a passionate interview with Midlands Radio;
“I don’t ever want to get a week like it again where you have cowards ringing you on private numbers and telling you what they think of you.
The stuff I got thrown at me on social media – I know that goes with the terrain – but we’re trying to do everything we can and the players inside are doing everything in their power.”
In April, the Kilkenny minor footballers were widely ridiculed after losing 17-20 to 0-01 to Wexford in the Leinster Minor Football Championship.
How does this benefit anyone?
The Kilkenny side faced enough embarrassment on the pitch without being subjected to further harrassment and shaming for days afterwards. How will this encourage young men and women in Kilkenny to opt for football instead of, or alongside hurling?
As in any sport, fans deserve to have their opinions heard, but there is no place in GAA for trolling or vindictive abuse. Players, and particularly young players, should be made to feel proud about playing for their county, not ashamed.
by David Smith