Sunday 24 September 2017

Rules may hinder move for harsher spitting penalties

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Liam O'Neill has admitted that there may be a "legal difficulty" with elevating the act of spitting at an opponent to a disrepute charge.

At present, spitting is a 'category two' offence, which carries just a one-match suspension, but the offence could carry a much heavier penalty if it was treated as an act that brought the game into disrepute.

There have been calls for much heavier sanctions in the wake of recent allegations of spitting, which have surfaced in relation to three different matches over the last eight days and are a concern for the GAA and the image it presents.

Last week, a Tyrone supporter was charged with spitting at Donegal's Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey after their tempestuous league match in Omagh.

The supporter in question faces a lengthy ban from the Association for bringing the game into disrepute and has the option of seeking a hearing.

Over the weekend, footage emerged on YouTube of an incident in the recent All-Ireland intermediate football final between Fr Rock's of Cookstown, who won the match, and Kerry champions Finuge.

In the clip, Paul Galvin appears to be on the receiving end of a spit from an opponent and wipes his face. Galvin then protests to another opponent, Tyrone county star Owen Mulligan, who is not the player involved in the alleged spitting incident.

Mulligan tweeted on his newly opened account yesterday that "this alleged spitting incident is getting out of control and I repeat alleged."

He said he was backing his club Fr Rock's on the issue.

When contacted by the Irish Independent last night, Mulligan said he had not seen any spitting incident in the game and stood over his earlier comments.

He admitted, however, there had been a lot of verbal interaction between players on the night.

"Unfortunately, verbals are a strong part of the game now," he said.

With the clip coming into the public domain some four weeks after the match it is unlikely that the GAA's Central Competitions Controls Committee will launch an investigation on that basis.

They are awaiting the referee's report to see if there is any evidence of spitting in the Leitrim-Offaly Division 4 league game, as Leitrim player Emlyn Mulligan suggested in a tweet.

GAA president O'Neill made strong comments last week about spitting on the field and re-iterated that view yesterday.

"I put my views on spitting fairly well on the record last week and I stand over those comments. If anything the alleged incident yesterday reinforces the stand I'm taking on it. I came out very, very strongly on that and I hold my position on it," he said.

Whether the penalty can be elevated to anything greater, however, remains unclear.

"There are intricacies of the disciplinary system over whether the referee has dealt with it or not. That exists, subject to those constraints," said O'Neill.

"We have a motion going through Congress now (relating to abuse). We have the one for bringing the Association in disrepute and we can go from eight weeks to expulsion on that – and that's a pretty powerful tool to have.

"It's not just in the GAA world, sometimes life and society in general is challenged by people who misbehave. Sometimes we have the tools and sometimes we find we haven't covered every single angle.

"We have tried to be as pro-active as possible on this issue with the respect initiative and we are promoting respect all across the organisation."

Irish Independent

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