GAA President Liam O’Neill has reiterated his belief that spitting is “disgraceful behaviour” after the latest flashpoint in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Leitrim’s Emlyn Mulligan vented his fury across the social media outlet Twitter on Sunday evening, claiming a rival Offaly player spat blood at him during their Allianz Football League tie.
The highly rated forward described the alleged offence as up there with the most “dirty acts in GAA” and claimed it deserved “more than a one-match suspension”.
On an aside, O’Neill questioned the wisdom of players reacting to such emotive incidents immediately online.
However, on the substantive issue of players spitting at opponents he said he was happy for his comments of last week to be rolled out again.
Back then, he reacted to a separate incident which subsequently saw a Tyrone supporter issued with a proposed suspension for spitting at Donegal’s Karl Lacey in Omagh. Describing spitting as “disgraceful behaviour”, O’Neill added at the time: “My message to those people is ‘we don’t need you’.”
The Laois man didn’t discuss Sunday’s incident specifically when questioned yesterday though he did claim that it backed up his comments of last week. “I put my views on spitting fairly well on the record last week and I stand over those comments,” said O’Neill. “If anything, the alleged incident (on Sunday) reinforces the stand I’m taking on it and I came out very, very strongly on that and I hold my position on it.”
Referring generally to players reacting to flash points via their Twitter accounts, O’Neill issued his own advice.
“I think there was an army rule that if something controversial happened that you didn’t speak for 24 hours — I’d say that was probably good advice,” he added.
“It’s best that people calm down before they speak or indeed before they tweet.”
The suggestion of publicly naming those who are found guilty of incidents like spitting has been made. The Tyrone County Board withheld the identity of the man who was hit with the proposed suspension after the incident involving Karl Lacey, as well as the duration of the ban.
“To seek to name and shame somebody who is punished is not something I would seek to do,” responded O’Neill. “We’re back to the other end of the respect spectrum then, aren’t we?
“Disciplinary action is about responding to an incident. If you apply discipline, that’s probably enough. I would never like to get into the area of name and shame.
“You apply discipline, you apply the rules, issue the punishment and you do it in as fair a way as possible. That’s our duty, as officials.”
O’Neill rejected the idea that the Association’s Respect initiative isn’t working, though. Rather he said the outcry following the recent headlines is a positive thing.
“That shows it is working because it’s so unusual now that we have these incidents, it shows that the Respect initiative is working and because players are respecting each other there’s always going to be an outcry when something bad happens.
“I would say it is working and I’d say the instances of disrespect between players, and amongst the playing population generally, is a lot less than it used to be. I’d say for that reason, it is working.”
O’Neill was speaking at the launch of Phase 1 of the GAA’s Healthy Club Project, a collaboration between the GAA and the Health Service Executive.
He similarly rejected that the future of the Spring Series has been placed in jeopardy by the low Croke Park turnout for Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash between Dublin and Kildare.
The attendance for the tie was initially announced as 15,389 on Sunday afternoon before being revised upwards yesterday by around 3,000 to 18,392.
“If this fixture hadn’t been on Mother’s Day and hadn’t been on one of the most bitter days of the year, then you would have expected more,” said O’Neill.
“If it was a fine summer’s day and you had a crowd of 15,000, I would be concerned. But I wouldn’t be concerned about last Sunday. I think people were marvellous to come out, all over the country.”
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