Clubs have to set right example -- Cooney
A BULLISH Christy Cooney insisted that there should be no need to afford greater protection to GAA referees, despite the scenes that marred last weekend's Connacht club SFC final between Galway side Corofin and St Brigid's of Roscommon.
Recent club games in Antrim and Tyrone also hit the headlines after clashes involving players, spectators and mentors but the GAA president says that the onus is on clubs to ensure their players and supporters behave responsibility, with particular reference to the treatment of match officials.
"There shouldn't be a need to protect referees after games. It's about showing a bit of respect and that's the bottom line. Clubs are going to have to own up to their responsibility and respect referees and respect officials," said Cooney at the launch of the GAA's 'Off the Booze and On the Ball' initiative, which challenges clubs to forgo alcohol for January as part of their training regime.
"I didn't see (the Connacht final), but the reports I've received were that it was unsavoury after the match, which is unacceptable by any stretch of the imagination. Referees go to do their job to the very best of their ability. I know the game was close, but no referee deserves any type of intimidation or hassle."
And Cooney denied that the incident was receiving more attention due to the dearth of inter-county activity.
"It can't be condoned under any circumstances, it doesn't matter what time of year it is," he said. "Clubs have a responsibility to own up and give the evidence honestly and fairly. And if they have to name people then name people. We can't accept these standards. We're talking about players, we're talking about young children, we're talking about families -- this is not good for our association."
The Cork native's term as president ends next April and while he hinted that Croke Park would be prepared to listen to Dublin's case for provincial status that was outlined last week, he also insisted there are other issues facing the GAA in the capital.
"I'd like to hear from Dublin on why they expect provincial status. What does that mean to Dublin and how is it going to affect the other provinces?" he said. "I wouldn't put a judgment on it at this stage. I think we have to listen to the arguments Dublin make on it.
"I read some place that Cork and the other bigger cities would be looking for provincial status then, but look, we have a responsibility on the association to support Dublin, which we are doing. It's our capital city with a population of 1.5 million, but that doesn't mean that everything in their plan is deliverable or is the right thing to do.
"It's going to involve a lot of time and debate and I think there are more pressing challenges for Dublin than provincial status. It's about the expansion of the game in Dublin, it's maybe about new clubs, it's about increasing the participation levels by 10pc which they talk about, it's about the structures they are putting in place to bring together the Dublin clubs to try and fight the challenges they face in certain areas in Dublin.
"So, there are other pivotal areas they need to be attacking in Dublin outside of provincial status. I think if those things were in place, it would move Dublin along in a significant way."