O’Rourke was targeted with several vile tweets in the wake of his red card dismissal late in Meath’s Leinster football championship semi-final defeat to Westmeath.
One tweet directed at O’Rourke said, ‘Don’t think I won’t knife you brother’ while others attacked the Skryne man and his family.
He’s the latest high-profile GAA player to suffer at the hands of social media users, with Cork duo Damien Cahalane and Anthony Nash both caught up in criticism from online trolls.
GPA Player Development Officer Cusack said that in the O’Rourke case, the terminology is so serious as to warrant being reported to the gardaí.
O’Rourke is aware of the offensive tweets as he highlighted them by retweeting them on his personal account.
“What I would say is if someone threatens your life on social media, that’s something that should be reported to the gardaí, absolutely,” said Cusack.
“I don’t see any difference between that comment being made on the street and by a guy on a keyboard. That’s something that’s crossed way over the line. I would be recommending any guy, in any sphere of life, who receives something like that to talk to the gardaí.” The GPA’s Sean Potts discussed the issue of ‘cyber bullying’ over a year ago and said that for some GAA players, it was becoming the “modern version of hate mail”.
Cusack said the GPA’s official advice is that players should cease all social media activity five days before a major game and remain off line for 24 hours afterwards.
O’Rourke retweeted the criticism that came his way shortly after Sunday’s shattering Croke Park defeat to Westmeath in which Meath blew a 10-point lead though Cusack refused to criticise him.
In fact, he suggested that O’Rourke had done inter-county GAA players a service by alerting the public to the abuse that comes their way.
“This is new territory for the GPA, for the GAA and for county players but what I would say for sure is that our silence can allow this phenomenon to grow and prosper,” said Cusack. “Nobody wants that to be the case.
“I think it’s important that the likes of Paddy and players like him highlight the fact that this is going on for them because if it’s happening to Paddy O’Rourke today, what’s to say it won’t be your child tomorrow?
“Even looking beyond the sporting environment, and I see it myself through the work I’m involved in, I often meet parents who’ve lost a son or daughter to suicide and it’s only afterwards they realise what was happening with their kids on Facebook or on social media. By then it’s too late.” Cusack, who played hurling for Cork himself, said county players are generally well placed to absorb criticism as long as it is sensible and balanced.
“Anyone that has played at the level these guys are at has put up with plenty of criticism, it’s when it becomes personal that the line is being crossed.
“When people are threatening to knife someone, that’s certainly something that’s not to be tolerated, it can’t be tolerated, it needs to be called out on.
“Sometimes we forget that these county players behind the profile and the physical presence have their own challenges and difficulties. My fear would be for the player who might be in a particularly vulnerable place when he receives this sort of attack.
“We’ve seen that in wider society and we know the dangers of it. We’ve seen some tragic situations.”