Former Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan: I also received hate mail

Former Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan: I also received hate mail

Former Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan has revealed that he also received hate mail during his playing career.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice said he raised the issue upon stepping down as Kerry manager because of one such abusive anonymous letter penned to a Kerry footballer this summer, which "crossed the line".

In it, the player was told "to jump off a cliff, and take three or four other players with him".

Sheehan says abusive letters being sent to players aren't a new thing and even winning five All-Irelands didn't insulate him from criticism in his final years on the panel.

"I received one or two of them over the last couple of years before I retired," he said in his Paddy Power News column.

"They are doing the rounds. If these individuals were manly enough they would put their name and their phone number on them, but they don’t. They are hiding behind their anonymity, both in letter form and online.

"The one or two I got, I just brushed it off. The way I viewed them when I received them was that some fella was ranting away. You have to be thick skinned and ignore that kind of stuff.

"Thankfully I could count on one hand the negative ones that spring to mind. The positive letters, especially since I retired, far outnumber those. I was blown away by the letters I received from people, not just from all over the county, but from all over the country and abroad.

"It’s not a massive thing but I have heard of one or two players maybe getting one recently enough. I guarantee you if you compared the handwriting and the tone of them, they are probably all coming from the same handful of people doing it over and over."

He agreed that the expectation of All-Irelands creates a unique pressure on Kerry footballers, which can lead to some supporters being quick to criticise players and management.

"Down here you’re judged on All-Ireland medals and when things aren’t going according to plan and the outlook isn’t great for Kerry they can be very quick to get up on players' backs or the managements' backs.

"But this isn’t all Kerry supporters, this is a small minority and I know that. I’m 17 years playing for Kerry so I know that it’s a very small few that are doing the talking.

"This is an amateur sport and both players and management are out there to give it their all and do the very best that they can for the love of the game.

"It’s sad to see this type of abuse. Social media has a big part to play in it too. It’s very easy for these faceless keyboard warriors to have a go."

Limerick manager John Kiely said on Tuesday his wife vets his mail to shield him from the worst abuse.

"I have a box at home too," he said. "I keep it in the box, it stays in the box. My wife picks it up and vets it and doesn’t let anything too serious come my way."

Sheehan believes that it's family members, rather than players or managers, who experience the worst of it.

"If you’re constantly getting these letters through the door, or it’s constantly happening on social media, it can be difficult to take - especially when players have family members that are experiencing this type of thing as well.

"It’s probably harder on families than it is on the individual themselves."

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