Saturday 3 December 2016

Eamonn Sweeney: Leave Twitter to the cat video gang

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 05/07/2015 | 17:00

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 22: Paddy O'Rourke of Ireland kicks the ball out from goal during the International Rules Test Match between Australia and Ireland at Patersons Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 22: Paddy O'Rourke of Ireland kicks the ball out from goal during the International Rules Test Match between Australia and Ireland at Patersons Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

I like to think I've got a pretty strong stomach when it comes to images of human degradation. I've read The Naked Lunch, watched the first series of True Detective and witnessed a scoreless draw at the Carlisle Grounds.

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But when I looked at the Twitter accounts of the clowns who showered abuse on Paddy O'Rourke last Sunday, I was genuinely shocked and disturbed.

One of them - look away now if you're squeamish - described himself as a 'bantersaurus.' Seriously, can you imagine the inner life of a man who calls himself a 'bantersaurus'? Wouldn't you just love to hang out with him all night long?

In truth, an examination of the Twitter pages of the men, or rather boys, involved revealed a pretty depressing cast of characters. The kindest thing you could say about them is that if they're ever charged with intelligence, there won't be enough evidence to convict.

There are people who'd argue that the Meath goalkeeper did the wrong thing by retweeting the abuse, on the grounds that "he's only encouraging them." Yet the culprits didn't exactly seem very encouraged by their brief moment of notoriety. In fact their attempts to slither away from the implications of their words, whether by insincere apology or pretence that this was just - here's the word again - banter, were even more pathetic than the initial attacks. We really were in Revenge of the Nerds territory.

But it's precisely the worthless nature of the people who engage in this kind of stuff on social media which makes me wonder if players worry too much about them. It's quite likely that no-one passes much heed on what these unfortunates say about anything else, so why should football be any diferent?

I am, as it happens, no stranger to being abused on the internet. Or so I believe, having been informed of it from time to time. I don't see the stuff myself because I don't google my own name. There's no percentage in it.

There seems to be an idea abroad that being slagged off on Twitter constitutes a peculiarly pernicious form of abuse. But perhaps this is merely the result of a tendency to hype up anything social media related. Most players have probably had worse things shouted at them from the stands.

The wisest course of action for inter-county players who find this kind of thing upsetting is to follow the example of Sean Cavanagh, who revealed last week that he doesn't have a Twitter account because he couldn't be doing with the kind of rubbish players have to put up with.

Cavanagh is of course at a massive disadvantage should he see an amusing cat video on the internet and wish to share the hilarity. But he seems willing to make the sacrifice. More players should follow his lead. Twitter isn't compulsory.

Unless of course you're a Bantersaurus.

Sunday Indo Sport

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