Wednesday 13 December 2017

War of words erupts following All-Ireland club JFC brawl

Violent scenes between players from Kerry club Dromid Pearses and Tyrone's Derrytresk
Violent scenes between players from Kerry club Dromid Pearses and Tyrone's Derrytresk
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

A war of words that started between two clubs has escalated into an inter-county affair, with two leading officials airing strong feelings as investigations continued into the mass brawl that marred Sunday's All-Ireland club JFC semi-final.

Kerry club Dromid Pearses and Tyrone's Derrytresk, who won the game in Portlaoise, now have their counties in their corners as the dispute grows ever more bitter.

Former Tyrone chairman Pat Darcy, now the county's Ulster Council delegate, waded into the controversy by describing Tadhg Kennelly's challenge on Cork's Nicholas Murphy at the beginning of the 2009 All-Ireland final as "one of the worst" incidents of indiscipline he has seen on a football field.

Darcy is adamant that indiscipline in the GAA is just as prevalent south of the border and suggests that there is some "blinkered thinking" from those who feel that the problem goes much deeper in Tyrone and Ulster.

Meanwhile, current Kerry chairman Patrick O'Sullivan, who attended the game, has expressed the wish that he will be called to give evidence as part of any investigation that the Central Competitions Control Committee will launch.

"I am hoping that I will be called to the inquiry that has now been launched so as I can make my views known along with the county secretary (Peter Twiss)," said O'Sullivan.

"We may be of assistance and could help clear up a few matters."

Darcy is annoyed at the perception that all the blame lies with Derrytresk, who face the prospect of being thrown out of the competition despite their All-Ireland final fixture against Galway club Clonbur being fixed for February in Croke Park.

"The Derrytresk club probably feels it's being singled out as the instigators and I can see how they would feel about that. It should be left to the disciplinary authorities to investigate and deal with," said Darcy.

"But there have been violent incidents on the field in all provinces in recent times. It's a problem for the GAA as a whole. It doesn't just happen in Tyrone -- it's happened down south quite a lot.

"People need to look objectively and come to the conclusion that this sort of brawling on a pitch is unacceptable and has to be stopped."

Darcy specifically referenced the Kennelly incident in 2009, which is sure to inflame Kerry opinions even more. "If he did that in a club game and spectators ran onto the pitch and there's no protection, who's to blame there?" he asked.

"Everybody needs to look at what's going on and deal with it. Pointing the finger at one county or another is only closing their eyes to what's happening in their own back yard.

"Every power at the GAA's disposal must be used -- suspending players and clubs, that's the answer to the problem, not pointing at Tyrone or Derrytresk or Ulster. Look at the lad in San Francisco (Fermanagh native Mark McGovern) who was almost killed. It's going on right throughout the GAA and not just in Ireland. This is a worldwide problem and maybe we need some more disciplinary rules."

Darcy added that it "takes two to tango," a sentiment echoed by Derrytresk player Kevin Campbell.

Campbell said it was "wrong" that Derrytresk supporters and substitutes should cross advertising hoardings and make their way out on to the field to engage in the brawl. But he believes that comment on the incidents in Portlaoise has not been balanced.

"Dromid Pearses got their story out first and people jumped to conclusions. Automatically because we're from Tyrone and it's happened here before (people blame us)," said Campbell.

The full-back said that in his opinion the row started when a Derrytresk official was struck first along the sideline.

He said that Derrytresk will take whatever punishment comes to them "on the chin" but was adamant that preparations for an All-Ireland final would continue without interruption.

GAA president Christy Cooney said the Association has been strong in cracking down on indiscipline in recent years at all levels.

"There were issues in Antrim last year and and that the Antrim County Board dealt with that very strongly. There were issues in Tyrone and the Tyrone County Board dealt with that very strongly. We'll always deal with issues like (that) in a fair and just manner," he said.

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