Images from Slaughtneil-Ballinderry, and Ballyholland-Downpatrick

The Men Inside The Wire – When Enough is Enough!

In a weekend that brought some wonderful encounters in Ulster, another shameful video of mindless idiocy has surfaced, this time from County Down. But where does responsibility lie? Ball-X asks the questions!!!

Let’s dispel a few myths.

One. The GAA people of Ballyholland and Downpatrick, of Ballinderry and Slaughtneil, and a fair slab from County Tyrone (which has had a fair clipping over the last few weeks) are far from being bad people. I’m lucky enough to know a few of them personally and can’t say enough good things about them. Alongside most of the GAA world, they are salt of the earth.

Two. The issue of violence at GAA matches is not a problem that any single club, county or province should have to bear full responsibility for. Whilst the GAA should be lauded as being the very heartbeat of communities up and down this island, the organisation, and anyone who subscribes as a supporter, volunteer, player or whatever, must come to realise that what’s happening on some GAA grounds is not a ‘Ballyholland problem’, not a ‘Downpatrick problem’, not a ‘Tyrone problem’ or a ‘Derry problem’, and certainly not this Free State fascination with addressing it as a ‘nordie problem’. It is in fact a ‘GAA problem’! No more, no less.

Three. News outlets and journalists, by definition, are tasked with spreading news to the masses. Sometimes that news can be good news, sometimes it can be bad. The reaction to it will always vary from person to person. The chances are that on the island of Ireland, very few of the various politically-independent sources of media on offer, report on such incidents with a view to ‘promoting it’, or my own personal favourite ‘sensationalising it’. The fact is that, in the context of what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, some clubs are coming together to do that themselves without a journalist in sight. If your boys are going to start, engage or end an almighty ruck over the back of Gaelic Football in 2018, you might as well learn to deal with the fact that someone out there, on the bank or in the stand, will own a device capable of recording it. And better still, if it counts as newsworthy in this big, bad, old world lads, you have nobody to blame for disgraceful behaviour but yourselves.

Just on that note, and before I continue any further, I’m going to take the opportunity of apologising to Ballyholland Harps GAC. Seemingly I’ve annoyed a few of them by posting the words “broken jaw, hand and collar bone (exclamation mark, bandaged head emoji, to be exact)” on one of Ball-X’s Facebook posts depicting yesterday’s shitshow in Kilcoo.

When I asked whether or not Ballyholland wanted to make any comment on what had taken place, the truth is I didn’t expect to receive a reply. After all, Down County Board and the Ulster Council, have yet to get back at the time of publication on this article. Downpatrick, despite efforts could not be contacted. After the events at Ballinderry-Slaughtneil the other night, neither club responded to requests for comment.

So it was a refreshing surprise to see their spokesperson get back to me. Unfortunately, it was a bit less refreshing being accused of misleading my readership with aforementioned six words (exclamation mark, bandaged head emoji) because seemingly, that was the big issue at hand. Here at Ball-X we are continually on the look out for contributors, so I wasn’t going to turn down the help when he offered it to me:

Ballyholland Harps seemed to be more concerned with my reporting skills, than condemning their role in yesterday’s proceedings. All part of the discussion, I guess.

I apologise to anyone who was misled by anything I happened to put alongside the three-minute video of women and children being subjected to physical confrontation.

A few other items to take care of:

  1. The Club Championship Round-Up (promised by Ball-X last night in a Tweet a full two hours before posting the video of what happened in Kilcoo) can be found here. Hope all enjoy.
  2. No condemnation nor any further comment in regard to the incident was made.
  3. Injury, no matter how they happen are regrettable in an amateur sport. So for the two players injured, Ball-X wishes you a healthy and speedy recovery.

Despite Ballyholland being good enough to come back to me, the sentiment of their response is the real concerning crux of the problem. Evidently, it’s not a problem unique to that person, or that club, but as recent events have shown – it’s endemic of the “stick your head in the sand” culture that has long been a problem across the GAA.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a physical sport, it’s an amateur sport, but it’s a sport that is very much in the public eye. Moreover still, it’s a sport within the local community’s eye. All across the country, GAA clubs are suffering with falling participation, and what went on yesterday, in front of the impressionable eyes of young children, lest involve them, will do nothing to encourage parents to push Gaelic Games to their youngsters. Amateur sport, it may be. Amateur organisation? Well, if you take in over €65 million in 2017, it doesn’t necessarily scream amateurish. A responsibility needs to be taken by the hierarchy to firstly address these issues in plain sight, and secondly to eradicate them from the game by any means necessary. But whilst I stand by my previous words, that no one individual club should bear the full responsibility or ire of a condemning public, there has to be a degree of responsibility taken when some of your own kids are witnessing or being caught up in those scenarios. What good does that do for your own club?

On the physical side of things, I wonder whether anyone involved in throwing fists and jumping fences yesterday, had time to make their way to the Athletic Grounds in Armagh last night, to take in Crossmaglen Rangers and Cullyhanna. It would be a shame if they didn’t.

Two sides separated by only a few miles, a fierce and deep felt rivalry, passionate support, big hits, championship football, everything on the line. Everything, indeed, that’s good about the GAA, not only in this part of the world, but in general.

And granted, there was the odd on-field tiff, the referee undoubtedly took some abuse. But, despite the ferocious tackling or sumptuous point-taking exhibition on display, the one thought that has been at the forefront of my mind today was the embrace that each opposing player had on the final whistle. One in particular caught my eye, under the far terrace, and I can’t be sure who it was. It may have been Callum Comiskey and Gary McCooey. The two went to battle in the second half as Cullyhanna tried to claw their way back into a game that was going against them. Not an inch given, none asked for. And at the end, not a handshake, but the respect of a full hug.

No doubt there’ll be somebody on to tell me that it couldn’t have been them boys for one reason or another. If so, I apologise. I’m beginning to make a habit of this misleading the readership shite.

On a final note, comments on Twitter in the wake of these videos going up has focused on the issue surrounding the GAA becoming more-musclebound in nature. How what went on yesterday in particular, wouldn’t look out of place in the UFC. I have had the displeasure of seeing people with agendas against our games that have nothing to do with sport, use Ball-X’s name to further their own agenda, labelling GAA as a ‘thug sport’.

And whilst I agree with Stevie McDonnell’s comments during the week on the lie of the land to a certain extent, it’s by no means certainly that cut and dry.

The problem, as far as I can see it is our inability as an organisation at every level to deal with the problem in a progressive and forthright manner. No more should clubs up and down the land allow lads who can’t behave themselves to rape the good name of the GAA, by settling personal scores on our fields, and call it “part of the game”.

It’s high time Croke Park laid down clear, concise and irrefutable procedures to bring consequence on any individual, or, as we have seen of late, team or teams, that engage in dragging the rest of us through the mud.

Going into the final round of round-robin fixtures next weekend, fate would have it that both sides still could find themselves involved in a relegation play-off against An Riocht to determine who falls into All County League Division Two. But, what if neither go down and each have to face-off again next year?  What happens if things go unchecked after the events of this season’s two games? Are we in the same place again in a year’s time?

It’s time to deal with it once and for all, and for right minded Gaels to demand an end to it. Commission someone to come in and take a look at it, build an investigation and get a report on it if needs be, if that’s what it takes. It’s becoming a cancer, but mostly, it’s just fucking embarrassing.

I can say in all likelihood that Mitt Romney, one of the Republican party candidates for the 2008 US Presidential race, will only ever be quoted on this website this solitary time. So pay heed.

Leadership – leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses.

I highly suspect you use Just For Men, Mitt, but ain’t nothing wrong with where you are on leadership.


Comments (1)

  1. This has been going on for years in the GAA and not one club will ban or condemn a player for it only play the blame game the whole time. Every club in every parish has a few players that drive around pissed drunk the whole time, and when he decides he doesn’t like someone in a pub and bashes the person for no reason a few local GAA lovers will also jump the man, but because he’s the star midfielder, no one says a word

Leave a Reply