Former Donegal star Brendan Devenney has alleged that a county minor footballer was taunted about the death of his father by opposition players.
Devenney says incidences of verbal abuse and sledging have become frighteningly common up North and insists almost every Ulster county is now engaging in verbals to steal a march on the opposition.
Devenney is fearful for the mental well-being of young players who are subject to sledging and admits his “stomach was turned” to hear a Donegal minor was verbally abused over the death of his father to cancer during a game.
“Up in Ulster, there is this perceived rest of the country versus Ulster attitude when it comes to football and how it is played. 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. As somebody from Ulster, I have to say that what is going on and what we witnessed in Ballyboyfey in the senior game was a pile of s....,” he asserted.
“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.
“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. 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 firmly believes managers are advocating verbal abuse and players are encouraged to goad the opposition as it earns respect from the stands.
“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.
“The game between Armagh and Donegal last year in the All-Ireland quarter-final was an absolute pile of s..... The pulling, dragging and constant mouthing off the ball was disgraceful. “When the qualifiers were introduced Donegal won more games through the backdoor in the first five years by comparison to any other Ulster team.
“We weren’t suited to Ulster. We’ve had to adapt. Donegal turned the tables on Tyrone on Sunday.
“Players aren’t just deciding to taunt their players, I feel they are being instructed by management.”
Referees must adopt a far more stringent approach to sledging, according to Devenney, and he pleaded with linesman and umpires to take their hands out of their pockets in assisting the man in the middle.
“This rule that referees must hear what was said before they can discipline a player is nonsense. I played League of Ireland football and you’d have been sent off for ungentlemanly conduct. That was it.
“Before the ball is thrown in a referee should go into each team huddle and tell the players that the first man he sees sledging is going to the line on a black card. You wouldn’t see half as much of it then. Players are always looking to see what kind of tone a referee will set. If they get away with something in the first few minutes, then they will stay at it for the rest of the game. People are now sick of it and it needs to be stamped out.”
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