To judge by the accounts of eyewitnesses, the scenes at the all-Ireland junior Gaelic football semi-final in Portlaoise on Sunday resembled a full-scale riot more than a sporting event.
The match was between Dromid of South Kerry and Derrytresk of Tyrone. Dromid won the match, but came out plainly the losers in the brawl. One of their players ended the first half concussed. Another suffered a broken cheekbone. There were also more colourful allegations, such as attacks with a handbag.
Such scenes must astonish those whose knowledge of Gaelic games consists only of major events, usually in Croke Park. These are characterised by colour, gaiety -- and dignity -- on the part of both players and supporters.
We live in an imperfect world and there will always be the nudge or the trip outside the referee's field of vision, but by and large the GAA has upheld high standards of behaviour.
That, however, does not necessarily apply to the lower echelons of the competitions. Brawls involving both players and spectators are not often as violent as that in Portlaoise, but they are quite common -- much too common for comfort.
How to police them and if possible stamp them out?
One proposal from a Kerry source -- excluding Derrytresk from the competition -- sounds too severe. But another Kerry demand, for better stewarding, merits urgent action.
The GAA is quite rightly a national institution. To keep that status, it must maintain the rigorous standards it has set for itself.