| 9°C Dublin

Laois boss McNulty brushes off sledging debate as 'a storm in a teacup'

THE GAA 'sledging' debate has taken another twist after two prominent Ulster GAA personalities delivered contrasting perspectives on the problem.

Justin McNulty - the former Armagh All-Ireland winner now managing Laois - used the word "hysteria" to describe the furore over last week's claims from his native county, alleging racist and 'partitionist' abuse directed at some of their players.

McNulty, whose adopted county found themselves embroiled in the controversy following the release of a trenchant Armagh county board statement just days after the two sides had met, insisted it is "just crazy" to claim such abuse is a major issue in the GAA.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same Kellogg's GAA Cúl Camps launch in Croke Park, veteran Down forward Benny Coulter confirmed that he has been the victim of sledging in the past.

Coulter stressed that sectarian abuse, based on whether you hail from north of the border, was "definitely not" creeping into the game and he revealed that sledging was "nowhere near as bad as it used to be" three or four years ago.

However, he believed the issue was far more prevalent within his own province.

"When I experienced it, it was in the Ulster championship. And when I went out of that into the qualifiers, it definitely wasn't happening," he said.

The two men were speaking in their role as Cúl Camp ambassadors. McNulty was initially unwilling to throw further fuel on the debate sparked by Armagh's furious reaction to Ciarán McKeever's disputed red card against Laois, highlighting the subsequent statement issued through Croke Park by both county boards, in which Armagh rowed back on their earlier claims.

In their original statement, Armagh declared that the "chanting of 'God Save the Queen' and malign taunting of 'British B*****d' has no place either on or off the field of play" ... but the subsequent Croke Park communiqué stated: "It was agreed that allegations made by Armagh county board in their statement do not accurately reflect what occurred in O'Moore Park."

When asked if the Croke Park statement had justified Laois's position, McNulty said: "I think the statement was something that both county boards and the GAA collaborated on.

"I've nothing more to add on the issue. All I can say is that I'd have to commend my players and commend the Laois county board in terms of their conduct throughout the almost hysteria. They took the oxygen out of the situation by not getting involved in it and they deserve commendation for that." He added: "It's not an issue. For it to be claimed as an issue is just crazy and the less said about it, the better."

Last weekend, his brother, Enda McNulty, indicated that he was on the receiving end of 'verbals' while playing club football with Na Fianna in Dublin, but Justin had no such memories during his time with the same club.

"If I did, I don't recall it," he said. "If something was said to me... I'm from where I'm from and it's not something that's going to insult me. It's like me calling someone a Kerry langer. What's the big deal? That's were you're from so.

"Really, I think it's a storm in a teacup. There's no issue at play here. There's been hysteria created out of something that's not even that big," he concluded.