Ryan McMenamin: The level of sledging angers me - I'd never have gone that low
Ryan McMenamin has sought to distance Tyrone from claims made by former Donegal footballer Brendan Devenney that one of his county's minors was taunted about the recent death of his father from cancer.
Devenney did not specify the match in question but Donegal minor manager Declan Bonner has specified in his 'Donegal News' column that it was last Sunday's Ulster Championship clash with the Red Hands in Ballybofey, a curtain-raiser to the fractious senior match between the same counties.
Bonner has described alleged comments made to his captain Michael Carroll as "toxic", while Devenney also claimed that sledging was being "advocated" by management on a widespread basis across the province.
McMenamin, a Tyrone minor selector, said he felt compelled to respond.
"It angers me because if it is the incident that I'm thinking, I know the (Tyrone) player personally and I know that he is not that sort of player," said McMenamin.
McMenamin said he never had a problem admitting he regularly engaged in 'verbals' with opponents during his career.
He has spoken openly about it in the past, how he donned his 'game face' and sought to put opponents off with what he said.
But he is adamant that he has never coached a player to engage in similar tactics and abhors the idea of an opposing player being taunted in such a manner as Devenney suggested.
"I know at any of our minor sessions, myself, Brian (McGuigan), Mickey Donnelly and Kieran McHugh (all members of the Tyrone management) would never mention sledging - it is all football, tactical football and getting the best out of the players," he said.
"It wasn't mentioned after the match and it is definitely something we wouldn't practise. You can ask any of the boys, we had open training sessions.
"You can see the sessions, there would be no sledging or negativity, just trying to get best out of the players. I think Brendan should have got his total facts right rather than saying that.
"I know I have the reputation as a sledger and openly put my hands up in saying 'yes I did'. But I would never have gone that low or I would never have told any of my players to go that low.
"My father had cancer twice and I know the pain it brings to a family. I tell any of the lads I'm involved with I wouldn't want them acting the way I acted.
"I engaged in it at a time when I played county but I would never have sunk to that level."
McMenamin senses the nature of sledging in Gaelic football has changed even since his prime as a defender with Tyrone for their three All-Ireland successes in the last decade.
"Sledging has moved on from when I played years ago. It has been taken up a notch," he said.
McMenamin has said in the past that a lot of stories about his sledging were "urban myths" but had long since given up trying to portray himself in a different way.
"My days of trying to change the public perception of me are over. I'm just worried about the young man (the alleged culprit in the Donegal incident) and what people outside the county are thinking of him," he said.
"He's a talented footballer, has come up against two or three of the best players in this age bracket and has dominated.
"I just want to get the point across that I'm surprised this got out because it's not something that we have coached."
McMenamin confirmed there had been some contact between Donegal and Tyrone over the alleged incident.
Tyrone were in the firing line from another county just a few weeks ago after their All-Ireland U-21 final success when their manager Feargal Logan was prevented from going into the Tipperary dressing-room to address the beaten team, such was Tipp's level of anger over what they alleged was said to their players in the course of that match.
Bonner said he wouldn't want to be part of a game where remarks about family bereavements are going to be made.
"There are certain boundaries that should not be crossed," he said.
Meanwhile, Tyrone and Donegal are considering the finding of the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee's investigation into incidents in last Sunday's senior match.
Both counties have been fined €5,000, while Tyrone selector Gavin Devlin is facing a potential eight-week ban for his involvement in the altercation as both sets of players and management left the field at half-time.
The indications are that all proposed sanctions will be challenge, while Tyrone are expected to contest the black card that their captain Sean Cavanagh picked up late in the game that led to a red card.
Cavanagh's forthright comments on sledging on have sparked a week of discussion on the issue.