Sport GAA

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Martin Breheny: Highlighting 'hate mail' may be playing into hands of twisted mentalities


Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jeffrey Lynskey. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Micheál Donoghue. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
James Horan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE
John Kiely. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

I suspected from the handwriting that the contents might be hostile, a hunch that turned out to be well-founded.

The letter-writer was beyond irate about my criticisms last week of Government Ministers, principally Shane Ross, over their transparently populist intervention in the controversy surrounding the Liam Miller tribute game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Personal insults, profanities and bile most venomous spewed from every line of the first page. And probably the second page too, but other than checking if it were anonymous (which is was), I didn't get to the end, having scrunched it into a ball and headed for the bin.

Anyone who has ever written in a newspaper has experienced the same at some stage.

Modern technology allows for rapid responses these days so even the nastiest email, usually from a false address, cannot compare with anonymous letters in terms of categorising the mindset behind them.

An email can be written and despatched very quickly, whereas a letter takes considerable time to write and post. Plus, it costs €1.

And for what? So that the sender gets a weird sense of satisfaction from despatching a nasty missive to someone who won't know (and in the vast majority of cases won't give a toss) where it came from.

The anonymous letter has always been part of the sub-culture of the inadequate, best treated as the dross that it is. It's surprising then that various GAA team managers have chosen to make an issue of it this week. It started with Eamonn Fitzmaurice during the announcement of his resignation as Kerry manager last Saturday.

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He talked of having "a box full of anonymous letters" and spoke this week of how a letter to a Kerry player urged him to jump off a cliff and bring some others (all named) with him.

Next up was Limerick hurling manager John Kiely. "I have a box (of anonymous letters) at home too. The anonymous stuff is just nasty. It has no place in the game. it's unfortunate, but it's just there," he said.

Micheál Donoghue and Jeffrey Lynskey, respective Galway senior and minor hurling managers, said yesterday that they had also received nasty letters, while former Mayo football manager James Horan revealed that he had contacted the gardaí over hate mail.

No doubt, every manager in the country, and many players too, has the same story to tell. Presumably, those who have gone public did so out of frustration and annoyance, which is perfectly understandable but are they not risking making a murky situation much worse?

Surely, there can be nothing more frustrating for a malicious, anonymous letter-writer, who must be troubled by personal issues in the first place, than thinking that the effort to upset somebody else was in vain.

Where's the point is indulging in letter-writing if the receiver merely glances at the first few lines before binning it. By acknowledging they got letters, the various managers have, perhaps unwittingly, played into the grubby hands of the senders.

Fitzmaurice and Kiely actually acknowledged that they had the letters in boxes. Why? Surely, they should have gone from hand to bin quicker than a dodgy pass.

The senders will be delighted to hear that two of the top managers in the country not only acknowledged the existence of the letters, but actually had them in boxes.

Given that the writers must have twisted mentalities, you can imagine their delight at learning that their offerings hadn't been destroyed within seconds of arrival.

Attracting so much publicity will probably encourage them, and indeed others of similar inclination who haven't yet got their biros out, to dabble in the dark art.

Now, if going public served any purpose, it would be worthwhile but that's not the case since there's no way of preventing people sending letters to others.

OK, so if they are threatening it becomes a garda matter but even then the chances of tracking down the perpetrators are remote.

The managers who have spoken out obviously believe that if the reprehensible practice is highlighted, it might bring enough pressure on those involved to drop their pens.

That's wishful thinking, when, in fact, the opposite is far more likely to be the case. Of course it's outrageous that someone feels entitled to abuse others anonymously but it should be seen for what it is - a dismal reflection on the sender rather than the receiver.

Fears that players would be unduly upset by receiving hate mail should be put in context too.

Are we to believe that young people who are mentally and physically strong enough to perform at the highest level of sport will pay undue heed to the rubbish of pathetic, unnamed individuals?

We live in an era when managers like to mother-hen their players but there's a limit to how far it needs to go.

In an unfortunate scenario, which is clearly bigger than any one organisation, it was bizarre to hear it being put to GAA director of communications Alan Milton on RTÉ's 'News at One' yesterday that "this seems to be something that the GAA struggles to get a handle on".

After patiently explaining there isn't really much the GAA can do to stop someone penning and posting a letter, he was asked: "Do you think it's time for the GAA to look again at what more can be done?"

It's the silly season all right.

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