A former Donegal footballer has alleged that a minor player was taunted during a GAA match about the death of his father due to cancer.
Brendan Devenney was speaking to the Irish Examiner about the practice of sledging - using verbal abuse on the field to upset and provoke opponents.
The practice came to prominence this week after Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh warned it was getting out of hand at senior level and could be impacting on vulnerable players.
Brendan Devenney in action for Donegal in 2007.
“The abuse can be very, very personal,” Cavanagh said. “There were certainly players that have been through tough times and they were getting a fair bit of personal abuse.”
Devenney said sledging was also happening at underage level and gave a particularly objectionable example.
“I heard back from a very good source that one Donegal minor, who lost his father to cancer, was taunted about that during a game,” he said. “That would turn your stomach.
“There is the mental health element here and are players able to take what is being said to them? What must that minor have been thinking after the game?”
Devenney is adamant that the players are being encouraged in the behaviour by backroom teams and supporters.
“It is completely getting out of hand. The stuff that certain players used to be at, were famous for, the stuff that old men in the crowd loved to see, now a lot of players are at it. Donegal are at it.”
“Players aren’t just deciding to taunt their players, I feel they are being instructed by management.”
The match between Tyrone and Donegal last weekend was a bad-tempered affair.
He also felt sledging was particularly prevalent in Ulster.
“Up in Ulster, there is this perceived rest of the country versus Ulster attitude when it comes to football and how it is played,” Devenney explained. “
You have people down South criticising the sledging, goading and cynicism that goes on in Ulster and those inside the province don’t like it.
“There is this harshness up North, particularly with the six counties. When I played with Donegal, we were seen as a soft touch.
“Armagh would have used those tactics of goading we saw at the weekend. Down would have done so, Tyrone too.”
H/T: Irish Examiner