Tuesday 25 April 2017

I have stupidly got sectarian abuse when playing against southern teams - Jamie Clarke

GPA survey reveals more than 80pc of players feel managers are turning blind eye to verbal abuse

Armagh’s Jamie Clarke at the launch of the GPA’s new ‘Fair Play Campaign’ designed to
encourage and reward good behaviour by players on and off the field
Armagh’s Jamie Clarke at the launch of the GPA’s new ‘Fair Play Campaign’ designed to encourage and reward good behaviour by players on and off the field
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's been one of the issues of the summer.

The practice of 'sledging' isn't new. Anecdotal evidence suggests it's been around for generations, but a GPA survey has shed further light on just how common it really is.

According to Armagh star Jamie Clarke, it's prevalent in "most big games." GPA CEO Dessie Farrell believes it has taken on a more "sinister" edge, and in response the players' body have launched their own 'Fair Play Campaign' aimed at stamping out the practice.

The survey revealed that more than half of players believe they have played against a team that deliberately engage in the practice, while one in five players admitted to using the tactic themselves. Those findings don't surprise Clarke.

"It happens in most big games but you become more and more immune to it," said the Crossmaglen man.

"What I will say is that players aren't aware of what is going on in other people's lives, and players have their own personal problems. Everyone has their own personal problems, and that could make a person angry in different ways, and when it comes to playing Gaelic games, that is where the anger could come out.

"The response could come out and they could retaliate, and ultimately it could result in a red card. The lads have spoken about emotional well-being and that is part of it."

And Clarke agrees that teams have adopted the practice as part of their tactical make-up.

"Absolutely, and teams themselves will have done their homework. I would say more so in Ulster, although from an Armagh perspective, there are times when you are playing southern teams, and you stupidly have got sectarian abuse, even though it doesn't make sense when you are playing Gaelic football," he said.

"Ultimately, teams will do whatever it takes to win - but the biggest aspect of this campaign is to highlight fair play.

"With the introduction of the black card, diving and feigning injury have become more prevalent."

For Clarke, the issue is as much about setting the right example for future generations than educating the current crop of intercounty players.

The ugly allegations arising from Tyrone's minor clash with Donegal show that what happens at senior level will be replicated at other grades.

"Ultimately, I think that came from. . . . no disrespect to Tyrone. . . but Tyrone teams in the past and the way they managed their games. . . And it probably filtered through - and that highlights, whatever we do at the top level, filters through to underage level."

Farrell wants players to take the lead on the issue with a scheme to recognise and reward fair play set to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

"It has become a little bit sinister over the last couple of years. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence out there as to what type of stuff had been said," he said.

"But there's the verbal abuse and then there's the unsavoury stuff that happens around the awarding of frees at the breakdown," added Farrell.

"That sort of brawling, pulling and dragging, grabbing each other around the throat, headlocks, pinching, and biting. . .

"Then there's the whole issue of diving and feigning. It's not rampant within the game, but 60pc of the players thought it was a concern for us.

"So it was prudent to try and take a bit of a sounding from players as to where this is and what their views on it are. And the overwhelming majority of players felt it was important for players to be taking a lead role in this."

However Farrell doesn't want to see any diluting of the physicality of the games.

"You do whatever it takes to win within the rules of the game and within the spirit of sportsmanship. You can always push the boundaries.

"But I think there's a line that you don't cross."

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