Friday 20 April 2018

Sean Cavanagh on sledging: Players over-stepped the mark - when it gets into family, girlfriends and wives, it's malicious

Cavanagh admits players from both sides 'overstepped the mark' in fiery Donegal clash

Tyrone GAA football star Sen Cavanagh, his childhood hero Mattie McGleenan, and Sen's daughter Eva (4) today launched SuperValu's new 'Kits for Kids' initiative
Tyrone GAA football star Sen Cavanagh, his childhood hero Mattie McGleenan, and Sen's daughter Eva (4) today launched SuperValu's new 'Kits for Kids' initiative
Sean Cavanagh, Tyrone, tackles Paddy McGrath, Donegal, for which he received a black card and a subsequent red card during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship, Preliminary Round, Donegal v Tyrone (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The war wounds from the Sunday's battle are visible across Sean Cavanagh's arms and legs but it's nothing out of the ordinary, he smiles.

"It was a typical Ulster Championship game, I think. And after 13 or 14 years of playing in them, you sort of get used to what your body is going to feel like the next day."

What was out of the ordinary was the sledging. Cavanagh doesn't want to be seen to be pointing fingers but by nature he's a straight talker and it's clear the verbals between players took on a more sinister edge last Sunday.

"With the intensity of the game and the hype and probably the tightness of the game as well, everyone was probably a bit on the edge I think. Players probably did overstep the mark to a certain extent."

"I've had it before... it can be very, very personal and I know there was certain players, you will probably know that play for us that have been through tough times, and they were getting a fair bit of personal abuse," he said at the SuperValu Kits for Kids launch.


It hasn't permeated every game. In Cavanagh's experience, most league matches pass off without incident but the more that is at stake and the more claustrophobic the game, the more heated things become.

"Look, it's disappointing to see and it's not just all one side. It's both sides. I don't know how you can change it, I don't know how you can stop somebody whispering in somebody's ear because I don't think you're ever going to be able to police that.

"I think it's part and parcel. Referees and officials will obviously try and clamp down on it but I'm not sure how they can do that because there's so many different ways it can be done."

Whether the verbals can have the desired effect comes down to the individual. Cavanagh reckons older heads have developed a thick enough hide but it's the younger players who could struggle to cope.

"I am accustomed myself not to take that personally and sort of laughed it off through the years.

"There is so much now on mental health of players and all that and there are players in dark places.

"You would hope that it doesn't come to the stage that some player tries to do something silly or something like that, if he has been abused or has had a bad game and people have really gotten on his case.

"But it's the more about the respect of the players, I think that's the only way. You can only try and encourage the players to respect one another.

"At the end of the day we all have to look at each other when we are walking off the pitch. We normally shake each other's hands and at times you don't feel like shaking that person's hand that has been abusing you for 70 minutes."

Cavanagh goes on to say he could name around 40 players that "haven't endeared themselves to me" and that he'd also appear on many similar lists.

That it has become "part and parcel" of the game for players to be delving deep into family histories and relationships in a bid to put opponents off games is a concern.

"You watch a bit of NBA and basketball and there will be a bit of thrash-talking.

"Someone shouting at you that you are going to miss a free or something, you laugh at that.

"But whenever it gets deeper down into family history, girlfriends and wives, it gets a bit malicious at that stage.

"That's down to the individual involved, I would hope that's not being coached or encouraged from management teams."

Policing sledging is close to impossible, he says. But he insists that umpires and linesmen can be more active in terms of helping to make sure the game goes by as smoothly as possible.

"I can look that way and call you a name and say something about your family and your child and no one will ever know.

"I'm sure Michael Murphy got chatted to yesterday when he was hitting free-kicks, I got chatted to whenever I was hitting free-kicks.

"I think the referees could probably deal with that and some referees are very good whereby if they hear somebody that's talking out of order when someone's striking a ball from a free, they will bring the ball forward. (On Sunday) it wasn't really happening so players are trying their luck a wee bit more.

"It certainly wouldn't be a good advertisement for younger players coming into the game and if they were thinking of whether they wanted to go play soccer or whether they wanted to go play rugby, there's probably an awful lot more respect in that game than there is in GAA at the moment."

Cavanagh indicated his intention to appeal against the black card he picked up late in the game, insisting the tackle was "zero per cent" cynical.

After that they'll have to prepare for whatever the back door might throw at them.

Cavanagh is one of a handful of survivors from their 2008 campaign that saw them recover from defeat in Ulster to claim Sam Maguire.

And he saw enough in his side yesterday to believe they could yet enjoy a long summer

"Either road was going to be tough. If we had won yesterday we would have probably faced a tricky game against Armagh and maybe one against Derry/Down.

"The uncertainty is ahead of us. The eight-week break is a strange one. As a squad we effectively disbanded yesterday.

"We'll go back to the clubs for three or four weeks which is strange when you train for five/six months a year to get to this point and you try to push yourself and from now on we are back to the clubs and there is no Tyrone squad so to speak.

"It's strange but at times yesterday we showed enough quality and I think there's enough talent in the squad to give it a rattle.

"It's the only show in town now."

Irish Independent

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