Saturday 10 December 2016

Ricey's protests spectacularly miss the point

Published 23/05/2015 | 02:30

Ryan McMenamin, Tyrone, in action against David O'Gara, Roscommon, July 2011, who 'became a virtual poster-boy for sledging without any sense that his behaviour made Tyrone’s senior management or players in any way uncomfortable' (Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE)
Ryan McMenamin, Tyrone, in action against David O'Gara, Roscommon, July 2011, who 'became a virtual poster-boy for sledging without any sense that his behaviour made Tyrone’s senior management or players in any way uncomfortable' (Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE)

Has there been a more depressing story in recent GAA history than that of the Donegal minor footballer reputedly taunted in Ballybofey last weekend about the recent death of his father?

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The truth or otherwise of the allegation becomes almost secondary to the reality that, given the toxicity of certain rivalries now, it is actually believable.

Tyrone's initial response was to issue denials, but now they have promised an investigation into this tawdry affair.

Of course, this could well lead down a cul-de-sac but it should, at least, represent some kind of tacit acknowledgement that such behaviour represents a new low.

Instead, we get minor selector Ryan McMenamin delivering assurances that sledging is "definitely something we wouldn't practise". But then sledging isn't exactly something that lends itself to practice, is it?

The problem with McMenamin stepping forward to protest Tyrone's innocence is that as arguably the most infamous proponent of trash-talk in GAA history, his insistence that he tells "any of the lads I'm involved with I wouldn't want them acting the way I acted" seems to spectacularly miss a central point.

It is that, as a player, McMenamin became a virtual poster-boy for sledging without any sense that his behaviour made Tyrone's senior management or players in any way uncomfortable.

In other words he came, not simply to represent a culture, but to define it.

As such, it is surely risible to imagine that his influence on young players today should be confined strictly to any advice he now imparts. As a player, 'Ricey' was all but celebrated as the man with the wicked mouth.

He and Tyrone may be entirely innocent of last weekend's charges, but the furore surely proves that, in time, you reap pretty much what you sow.

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