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I get more abuse on the field in Ulster - Coulter

One of the most marked men in Ulster football has revealed how verbal abuse is more prevalent within the province than it is outside it.

Benny Coulter, Down's talismanic forward, admitted how he has often felt like "driving" opponents who have verbally abused him during matches.

Coulter, one of the new Kellogs Cul Camp ambassadors unveiled yesterday, believes incidents of 'sledging' are not as common as they were three or four years ago and has discounted any fears that a sectarian mindset might be seeping into the games.

"Definitely not," Coulter revealed, before admitting that Ulster defenders are more vocal towards him than their southern counterparts.

"It is within your own province that this happens. It is not so much when you come out into the qualifiers and what not. It is more or less in your own province.

"I spoke to a few of the boys out in Australia about it and they felt the same. They were getting a bit of sledging too, the likes of Stevie McDonnell and Paddy Bradley and those boys. It's definitely not as bad as it used to.

"It is a couple of years since it happened to me personally, but it does happen. Three or four years ago, it was bad. You feel like turning around and driving someone when it happens. Obviously, you can't.

"It's usually the forward getting it. I don't know have they been told to go out and start slabbering to whoever they are marking to try and put them off their game."

"Probably, I'm a bit more experienced now. You've been on trips with different people and get to know them better. Probably, these boys have wised up a bit to what they were at years ago.

Coulter acknowledges that it can be an effective tactic in distracting players and is sometimes orchestrated from within the dressing-room.

"There was a lot of talk last year of players going out to intimidate whoever they are marking. There was a book out there this year and there was a bit I read in it where players were told to go out and intimidate whoever they are marking."

"Sometimes it might put you off and other days it might drive you on. It's a two-way thing. Some days it works, some days it doesn't."

Coulter acknowledges that it is virtually impossible to try to eradicate it: "I don't think anybody can do anything about it. How can you stop it? If it's there and the referee doesn't even know about it, it's impossible to stop it."

He admitted the recent M Donnelly inter-provincial campaign, which Ulster won, had an approach that he really enjoyed.

"There were no tactics. We met up on the morning of the game, didn't even have a training session and Joe (Kernan) picked the team. That was it. You played six forwards against six defenders. That's how the game was played. Even the Down lads I was chatting to, Polie (Mark Poland) and big Dan (Gordon), felt so much better playing in the game because there was no tactics and stuff."

Meanwhile, Laois manager Justin McNulty has described the furore last week over Armagh's claims about racist abuse as "hysteria".

He also claimed there was no "big deal" about players from the Six Counties getting abuse about their origin and was at a loss to even recall if any had been directed at him.

Over the weekend, his brother Enda intimated that he had been on the receiving end during his time as a player with Na Fianna in Dublin.

"If I did (get partitionist abuse), I don't recall it. If something was said to me... I'm from where I'm from and it's not something that's going to insult me," said Justin McNulty.

"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 a big issue -- it's not an issue at all in fact.

He praised the Laois County Board for not fuelling it any more with a response to the original Armagh statement, which was dampened later in the week by a joint statement from the GAA and the counties.

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"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."

McNulty said that last week's controversy did little to distract his players, who have found the going tough in Division 1 and were beaten in Kerry, despite having a numerical advantage for more than 60 minutes after Tomas O Se's sending-off.

"The players are mature enough and wise enough to know that there wasn't anything in it and they knew that they were playing Kerry, recent All-Ireland champions, a team that everyone measures themselves against.

"They knew they had to refocus. Any distractions would potentially take away from your focus so it wasn't an issue for the players."

The GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee will tonight conclude their investigation into the incident that led to Ciaran McKeever's red card in Portlaoise.

They were planning on speaking to McKeever and the player he is alleged to have kicked, which yielded a two-match ban that was subsequently removed pending the investigation.

Irish Independent