Sunday 28 December 2014

Colm O'Rourke: Bin trash talk on all sides and get on with the game

Trading insults is common, but it can't replace good football

Published 25/03/2012 | 12:30

Páraic Duffy's intervention in the Armagh/Laois spat last week was indeed timely as it appeared that a lot of kettles were calling the pot black. It is obvious from the statement released on Thursday that Duffy told everybody to back off as the allegations made were untrue.

The very mention of the word racism sparks fear, even if the definition of that term could not be applied in a lot of cases. The word racism means a belief that race accounts for the differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. It is unlikely that anyone on this island involved in sport believes that of someone from another part of the country.

It's not as if rough language is uncommon on sportsfields of all codes. The Australians, for example, have what by all accounts is a well-deserved reputation of less than parliamentary terminology for opponents in the gentlemanly game of cricket.

In my experience of football I have heard rather uncouth comments in many games at both club and county level and I am very surprised that Armagh would raise a topic like this. Even more surprising because, in my experience, it was more usual to be referred to as a Free State so and so, rather than the other way round.

In fact, some of the Ulster teams seemed to have a much more refined vocabulary in dealing with southern sides than anything we could come up with.

It is a pity that a north-south divide should appear to have opened up. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and some of my team-mates were well able to give as good as they got, especially in the 1980s when games against Cork and Dublin were fought out both verbally and physically, which probably doesn't happen to the same level now.

Yet anyone who thinks the most insulting comments don't still go on is living in a fool's paradise. It is not too long ago that Dublin players seemed to have a policy of taunting opponents. This has disappeared from their game and as they have concentrated on football, the results have spoken for themselves.

Donegal last year were at the same crack and it was even admitted in that infamous book which caused so much internal division and ended up with a decent man, Kevin Cassidy, being lost overboard. Trash talking, it is called, which is a very good term because it is absolutely stupid carry on.

And it is not too long ago that a well-known Armagh player made accusations against an equally well-known Tyrone player about the sort of lip he was dishing out in games. So this is a case of 'let he who is without sin, cast the first stone'.

It is not true to say at the end of a game that all is fair in love and war or that what happens on the field should stay on the field. There is a difference between comments which are low and entirely nasty and others which are made to wind players up and see what the response is. And all players know the difference too.

It may appear from all of this that football matches are dominated by vulgar comments, but nothing could be further from the truth. Incidents like these do arise regularly but younger players do more of it and in many cases it is a way of seeing if they have the mental toughness. If a player gets a reputation for being easily knocked off course, then there will be no let up.

As I got older, I experienced very few comments of any type, maybe it was considered that I had a hide like a rhino or I was just plain ignored. I'm not sure which would be worse, but I had neither the energy nor the inclination to get involved with opponents at any rate.

Anyway, Duffy has got Armagh in particular off the horns of a dilemma. It was a case for them of acting in haste and repenting at leisure. Laois, too, will be happy that the problem has melted away as they were also caught between a rock and a hard place. And players would do well to learn that a closed mouth catches no flies.

Next Friday night in Killeen Castle Golf Club, my old club, Skryne, are launching their club history.

It is a big occasion for the club which is the longest serving senior club in Meath and where I had the best of times. The greatest scourge of age is not being able to play football so those times when I played for Skryne were precious. There were good days on the field including a couple of senior championships and there were many more losses, but a career can never be measured by statistics of winning and losing. Sheer enjoyment is the only thing that counts and I got plenty of that.

The launching of club histories is now common. I was at the launch recently of the Trim club history which was written by Frank McCann and Seamus Brennan and it was a very enjoyable occasion.

The Skryne bible has taken David Carty, who captained Meath in the 1966 All-Ireland final and won a medal the following year, about eight years to compile and is spread over two volumes of 800 pages each. In effect, it is a social history of this rural parish which has had at least one player on every Meath team which has won an All-Ireland.

It should be a great night with Christy Cooney doing the honours. A History of the GAA in Skryne, 1887-2010; The Blue Kings of Tara will be available to order from www.skrynegfc.ie

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