Cooney insists 'Respect' plancan silence abuse
THE GAA has launched a new initiative to tackle sideline abuse of children and referees and to embed a culture of sportsmanship in young players.
Association President Christy Cooney underlined the significance of this grassroots 'Respect Initiative' by describing it as "the most important launch I will ever make during my term of presidency."
The scheme has been piloted among U-12s in Armagh, Sligo, Waterford and Kilkenny, and will be extended nationally to all units of the GAA at U-12 level in the coming months.
Over the next few years, it will be extended to U-14s, U-16s, minors and adults.
Essentially it's an education and practical programme for parents, coaches, teachers and players, and is designed to do away with the 'win at all costs' attitude that can turn young players away from playing GAA.
At top level, Cooney also announced a pilot 'Fair Play Index' scheme for the National Leagues in Football and Hurling, with a prize of €10,000 to the county which has the lowest average of disciplinary points at the end of each campaign.
Inevitably, questions were linked with the Respect Initiative and the Kildare v Laois O'Byrne Cup brawl at Portlaoise on Sunday.
President Cooney commented: "Last year we had a tremendous season with regard to discipline and how our referees performed. Absolutely outstanding.
"We had a little hiccup last Sunday at Portlaoise.
"I'm not really going to get into that today, but it's not the trend that we want this year. I know that Leinster Council will deal with the situation as it should be dealt with under rule.
"I want to send a clear message today: that's not the standard we want in any team at any level, or any teams on the field of play and the Respect Initiative must be carried through at all levels."
All units of the GAA will receive information packs about the new scheme and club information evenings will be held to spread the message.
Research published five years ago revealed that a third of sideline comments at under-age games were negative; that is believed to have risen to 50pc.
Off the field of play the Association wants to see adult spectators and mentors becoming aware of the need to praise and support players and referees rather than criticise them.
This is clearly a long-term plan, but its gradual implementation could have a positive effect on levels of sportsmanship in the Association's games.
"My message today to our Association is that we want this implemented to the highest standard we can and to create a model of best practice throughout our Association.
"And I would ask all referees, all coaches, all parents, all teachers, all players to respond to it in a positive way.
"That in itself will create the right environment for the future of our games and for the future development of our young people," said Cooney.