Monday 10 December 2018

'Players are subjected to faceless abuse, which we wouldn't be used to'

Galway captain David Burke leads his side in the parade before the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Galway captain David Burke leads his side in the parade before the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Galway hurling coach Noel Larkin has called on Croke Park and the Government to work together in bringing an end to the 'faceless' online abusers who target young players.

Larkin said his first priority was protecting the health and well-being of their players when Micheál Donoghue asked him to be part of his backroom team.

Speaking at the recent launch of Galway GAA's critical incident plan, Larkin said the Galway management assess the mood of the players daily and immediately raise any concerns with them.

"I think if you are happy outside training and matches you will be way happier on the field," said Larkin.

"We use different mechanisms within the group to say how you feel in your sleep, stress and mood. We have lads monitoring that every day and if a player scores between one and four out of 10 a couple days in-a-row he'll get a call from the management team to see how things are at home, or is there pressure in college or at work.

"We like to think we are doing reasonably OK, but like everything we can always do better.

Noel Larkin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Noel Larkin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

"We all remember Niall Donohue, we lost him in 2013. We are very conscious that first and foremost if clubs send in their players to us that we treat them with respect and that we look after their health and well-being first and foremost before anything else."

The GAA has a lengthy online training and advice document for members of the association that advises how to interact with online complaints, trolls and negative comments, but Larkin thinks it is difficult for young players to cope, especially in the face of unfair criticism.

"In my time we had no social media, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Players are subjected to faceless abuse, which we wouldn't be used to.

"I was left in no uncertain terms if I had a bad game, you'd hear it coming off the field. Now lads go home and they get abuse online just because they drove a ball wide.

"It is something that has to be looked at by Croke Park and the Government. I think there is room there for everyone across the board to look and see how we can make things better.

"You can't be on social media, faceless and abusing players 19, 20 or 21 years of age."

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