Thursday 23 January 2020

Twitter twits spoiling Senior Cup experience


A WORRYING trend has emerged recently which has seen schools rugby players becoming a target for abuse on some social network sites.

Rugby's Leinster Schools Senior Cup gives players from fourth year up to sixth year a chance to play in an atmosphere mimicking the professional game. But, for some, it can be brutal experience.

The stage allows players an opportunity to display their talents to their peers, their parents and their teachers. If they're good enough, they may even attract the attention of provincial recruiters.

There is also the long-term benefit of the friendships made between team-mates. Running around a pitch or sprinting up mountains together on a freezing Saturday morning creates strong bonds between players.

However, Senior Cup rugby can have an extremely cruel side as well. With players as young as 15 playing in front of a not always respectful crowd, a Senior Cup match can be a daunting experience.

Jeering and booing is almost constant, threatening to overpower the positive calls of team-mates and coaches. Make a mistake and the effect is multiplied.

While the rewards for victory in the final can be great, defeat can mean the end of the playing careers of many of the sixth years who do not go on to play in college or at a representative level. The crushing realisation of this fact at the end of the match is a depressing scene to witness. Senior Cup rugby brings out a huge range of emotions, both good and bad; it is one of the great aspects of it that it makes the players care so much.

It is exciting, it creates terrific rivalries between schools that are passed from father to son, and even offers the possibility of getting on TV. But it is still an amateur game played by teenagers.

Unlike professional athletes who are practised at ignoring unhelpful criticism, these students can be easily hurt. And abuse on social networking sites is increasingly becoming the norm.

Comments frequently focus on the physical appearance of players, and although a good physique can be important, if a player is good enough, it becomes irrelevant.

Those who feel the need to comment on a team or a player's ability in a particular match should be careful about what they say, because they cannot presume to comprehend what is going through the minds of the players.

Players may experience crippling nerves; they could be lacking in confidence due to the crowd or just be having a bad day.

The use of social networking to abuse players is cowardly and it is ruining the exciting, sometimes heartbreaking, but always rewarding Leinster Senior Cup.

Lee Boorman is a tranistion year student St Andrew's College in Dublin

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