Lyons calls on GAA to curb hooliganism

Lyons calls on GAA to curb hooliganism

Former Dublin football manager Tommy Lyons has called on GAA President Nickey Brennan to adopt a tough approach to stop a culture of hooliganism in the Gaelic games.

Already this year, wooden spoons, cups of tea and pears have been thrown at players during the National Football League.

Kerry All-Star Kieran Donaghy received a one-match ban after reacting with a 'one-fingered salute' when he had a wooden spoon thrown at him during the Kingdom's clash with Mayo at Castlebar.

"I would like that Nickey Brennan had a strong inquiry into finding out the culprits and actually making an issue saying that they are banned from GAA matches," Lyons said at today's launch of RTÉ's GAA championship coverage at Montrose.

"The danger is that if we don't start clamping down on these guys who throw things onto the pitch, it will start to develop and in three years time we'd be saying that we saw this right in front of our eyes and we didn't do anything about it."

Lyons himself was on the receiving end of some personal abuse during his term as Dublin boss.

The Kilmacud Crokes clubman was left particularly disturbed following his side's loss to Westmeath in the 2004 Leinster championship, after he received a torrent of abuse from Dublin supporters as he exited the pitch. He recalls the incident vividly.

"One of the disappointments I had as Dublin manager was when we lost to Westmeath and I was treated to incredible verbals and guys spitting at me coming off the pitch at Croke Park," he said.

Despite both video and photographic evidence of the incident, GAA officials never punished the culprits, something which astonished Lyons.

"What amazed me at the time was that people didn't react to it. That cancer has come into the Association and those people - there are very strong photographs of who the culprits were - and they were never challenged by the GAA (at the top level), because to me that's a GAA issue, it's not a county issue.

"I don't think we should allow this into our grounds at all."

Lyons also believes that the GAA were also very heavy handed in the suspensions they dished out to Dublin and Meath players following the recent league fracas.

He believes that the Association's disciplinary chiefs react too readily to incidents which are highlighted on TV news bulletins.

"I've always said make the six o'clock news in the GAA and you have a problem," Lyons stated.

"Whether it's Semple-gate or Parnell-gate or whatever other gate you want. Make the six o'clock news and you are in trouble and it's as simple as that.

"The GAA have always reacted to the six o'clock news and they will continue to react to the six o'clock news because that is the biggest viewing programme in the country every day of the week and if you make that, you are in trouble."

Lyons also reckons that while the GAA were right to call in the players involved in the incident, he does not believe that the suspensions dished out were done on an equal footing.

"I would have felt that calling in the eight players was right. I would have felt that giving them all a month was the right course of action. That would have laid down a marker for everybody," he admitted.

"They shouldn't have got eight weeks for pulling and dragging - it's as simple as that.

"They should have got four weeks. I would be very strong on discipline - I had two players sent off in my whole life as a manager."

According to Lyons, the GAA has a serious problem when it comes to consistent application of its rules.

"Absolutely. I think that's one of the reasons why players are disputing the suspensions. Why did Ciaran Whelan get eight weeks for striking?

"I'd say about eight other guys got sent off for striking this year and they got four weeks - because it was on the six o'clock news.

"At the end of the day players are human. They are amateur and there are times when it just happens - that's just life.

"I think the GAA are right and I'm fully supportive on the clamping down of it and I don't condone it but I think we have to keep it in context.

"I don't believe that there was viciousness in the row, to quote Colm O'Rourke, 'it didn't make the top 10 or 15.'

"I don't believe there's any such thing as rows. It was unseemly, it wasn't nice, it wasn't right but it wasn't the brutal physicality that we saw in the International Rules at Croke Park. There was nothing to compare to that."

Having worked with Paul Caffrey when Lyons was Dublin manager, the Mayo native is adamant that Caffrey does not send his players out to pick up red cards and turn Gaelic football matches into violent encounters.

"Suffice to say there is not a chance in the world that Paul Caffrey is going in and telling guys to throw boxes and get sent off. I can tell you, he's a Garda by profession and he spends all of his life telling people not to do it.

"I was three years with him and there's no way in the world Paul Caffrey is at that. I think some of that criticism has been over the top, way over the top."

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