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23rd Sep 2021

Why the GAA president needs to do a lot more than say “Words matter” to combat online abuse to players

Lee Costello

“It’s total nonsense, it’s bluff.”

GAA president Larry McCarthy has condemned the abuse that mayo players and staff has suffered in the wake of their All-Ireland final loss.

However, he nor the GAA mention who is giving this abuse, is it online, is the Mayo fans, opposition supporters, or the media?

Some have referenced an article from Joe Brolly damming them, and Aidan O’Shea in particular. It is tough to combat abuse when you are not highlighting where it is coming from.

Worse than that though, Larry McCarthy’s statement in response to the abuse was “Words matter,” which is just disappointing for many reasons.

Speaking on the GAA Hour, Colm Parkinson discusses the situation.

“Just to go back to Larry McCarthy, how do you stop this? Like for Larry McCarthy to come out and say ‘Words matter,’ you know?

“Do you think the fella who goes online, I don’t want to say a Dublin fan, a fan from anywhere that’s not from Mayo, that doesn’t like Aidan O’Shea, will go: ‘Oh jeez, I’m going to give Aidan O’Shea a bit of abuse, oh hang on a second, Larry McCarthy actually said words matter, I better not do this.’

“It’s total nonsense, it’s bluff, I think Larry McCarthy has more important things to worry about, and number two, Larry McCarthy said: ‘Stop unwarranted critiques of GAA members.”

“Who’s going to listen to that, and stop doing it? How about, bringing in some sort of a direction to clubs, if you see a member online, crossing the line, that that’s a six month suspension.”

SportsJOE journalist Niall McIntyre was also on the show and weighed in on the discussion.

“It’s obviously at a much larger scale, but you see it in the Premier League, and in soccer, that often times if there’s fans that get involved in such abuse, they’re called out and they’re banned from their club’s grounds and stuff like that.

“The GAA is at a smaller scale so it should be a little bit easier to police, and it would obviously make much more of a difference if Larry McCarthy was to introduce some sort of criteria to ban someone, if they came out with that sort of a thing, rather than just saying ‘Words matter.’”

Parkinson believes that there are ore concrete ways to battle abuse, and that McCarthy’s comments are no more than a tick boxing exercise.

“Yeah exactly, I think that might be something, I don’t see it stopping, the rest that are GAA members then Lee, obviously that might deter them, to some sort of suspension or something like that. Or they had to be held accountable for what they’re writing online, especially after matches about other GAA members. 

“The other stuff, the ones who aren’t GAA members, like telling them ‘Words matter,’ means nothing, you just have to tell players don’t go on it. 

“Stay away from it for a few days, and for your own peace of mind, and mental health, don’t be on those stupid apps, especially after losing a match.”

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