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GAA misinformation in the WhatsApp age

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On the surface it’s a fairly simple app. Boring even. A basic messaging service that doesn’t really compare with Twitter or Instagram or Facebook in terms of features.

But in many ways this simple little app has emerged as a one of our main sources of sports news and information. Whether it’s direct via a friend or indirect via the infamous forwarded message, WhatsApp pumps a never-ending stream of sports-related truths, half-truths and bare-faced lies onto our screens. The problem is: how do we tell our fact from our fiction?

Well, in this age of misinformation, it’s probably wise to start off by assuming that its false and then work backwards from there. By this stage we all know that forwarded messages (i.e. messages from another chat, now rendered anonymous, that have been passed on hundreds or thousands of times before reaching our phone) are notoriously untrustworthy.

Recently, rumours surrounding the Kerry football manager Peter Keane – specifically that he was facing a player coup – spread like wildfire on WhatsApp, forcing the county board as well as present and former players to clarify that there was no truth whatsoever in the speculation.

“The erroneous WhatsApp messages and subsequent social media furore that emerged in the weeks following our defeat (to Cork) had, in our opinion, the aim of damaging the reputation of players and management, and it has to be said that the prevalence of fake news has increased with the rise of social media,” Kerry GAA Chairman Tim Murphy said.

In the past, videos and images that supposedly showed intercounty players fighting or misbehaving in some other way have been debunked, but not before they have been dispatched to the four corners of the country. A photo popped up recently of a well-known player apparently holding an illegal substance. It turned out the picture had been photoshopped. In the original version, he was holding a pin in support of a charitable foundation.

That’s the dangerous side of WhatsApp, the side that can damage reputations for the sake of a “joke”.

Teams and individuals have also gotten into trouble when things they actually did were shared widely via the app. Who could forget the Ballyragget hurlers? In 2017, the Kilkenny club, who had won the intermediate championship a couple of days earlier, earned national headlines for all the wrong reasons when footage of some of their players cavorting with strippers leaked via Snapchat to WhatsApp. What a fuss that particular episode caused.

Local club Kilcummin also had to deal with a bit of a media storm last year when a video of one of their training sessions left the team group chat and found its way into the pockets of half the country. The clip showed a coach shouting profanities at his players as they wrestled on the ground, and it drew plenty of tut-tutting from the Gaelic football purists. It all blew over pretty quickly but it wasn’t much craic for the club at the time.

Leaks are common enough when it comes to classified team information (which, admittedly, is great from a journalistic standpoint). Maybe it’s to be expected: when you have 40 odd fellas in a group, what are the chances that at least one of them isn’t as wedded to the vow of secrecy as the rest? All it takes is for one person to share it in one external group. Once that happens, you’re done. Even professional outfits like the Irish national soccer team have had issues with this kind of thing in the past.

There are some funny stories to come out of WhatsApp, though. One of my favourites is the time a local player, disillusioned with not getting a run in a certain game, went home and posted a picture in the group chat. It showed his bin – with his football boots sticking out of it.

Getting your hands on someone else’s phone can also lead to some amusing WhatsApp episodes, as I found out first-hand (from the wrong side of the joke) a couple of years ago. I started training with the Legion again (one of my many failed comeback attempts) and one night, not long after I had returned, I was out with a few of my teammates. I was standing at the bar with my phone in my hand and next thing it was gone, snatched by a thief who disappeared into the crowd.

When it came back into my possession, I discovered that the assailant (a teammate) had sent a heartfelt WhatsApp message to our manager, Stephen Stack, saying how glad I was to be back and how I was looking forward to working with him for the rest of the year. Bear in mind that this was around 2am on a Saturday night. On a scale of one to Ballyragget it wasn’t that bad, but it was still fairly embarrassing.

I suppose like all of these new technologies, we’re still finding out how to use WhatsApp and how to take and process the information that we receive. Really the best advice is to take everything you read on WhatsApp with a pinch of salt. (Especially if you’re a manager and you get an emotional message from a player you barely know very late on a Saturday night.)

 

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Fleming and Doherty top Killarney crew at Boggeragh

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The Boggeragh Rallysprint, organised by Cork Motor Club and based in the forest complex of the same name, took place over the Christmas break.

Based near the village of Nad, the event attracted a strong 60-plus car entry and was won by West Cork driver David Guest and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2. The latter is a member of Killarney and District Motor Club.

The first all-Killarney crew to make the finish were David Fleming and Kieran Doherty in their Honda Civic. The Killarney-based crew finished 20th overall on what was only their second time competing on a gravel rally.

World Rally Championship launch

The new Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid that Craig Breen and Paul Nagle will drive in this year’s World Rally Championship is set to be unveiled on Saturday in Austria.

The World Rally Championship will undergo major environmental changes this year when new technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.

The season launch takes place at Red Bull’s headquarters near Salzburg ahead of the first round of the WRC, next week’s Rallye Monte Carlo, as a new era for the sport dawns.

Breen and Nagle will be in attendance and the launch will be live streamed on WRC.com

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Killarney Valley athletes rubbing shoulders with the best

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Killarney Valley AC continued their upward curve last Sunday when they entered men’s and women’s teams in the prestigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held in Abbotstown in Dublin.

Despite going up against the best of the best in terms of Irish athletics, the Killarney Valley contingent gave a good account of themselves at the state-of-the-art National Indoor Arena, with coaches Tomás Griffin and Con Lynch coming away with plenty of positives to reflect upon.

The women’s team was comprised of Sarah Leahy, Ciara Kennelly, Alison Butler, Grace O’Meara, Ellen Moloney and Melissa Ahern, while the men’s team included Conor Gammell, Oisín Lynch, Kevin O’Callaghan, Sam Griffin, Jason O’Reilly, Dara Looney and Darragh O’Leary.

The nature of the team event presents a number of challenges and opportunities for the forward-thinking club, as coach Tomás Griffin explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.

“The indoor league is senior elite level so you’re competing against really strong athletes, including some Olympians,” Griffin said. “Part of the criteria is that you try to cover as many of the events as you possibly can within all of the athletic disciplines. You compete as a team, as opposed to normal athletics competitions which are very much based on the individual.

“If you are 16 or you turn 16 in the year of competition, you can participate. That allows us to give our up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete as part of a representative team alongside our more established, older athletes.

“There are two rounds with half the events in all disciplines covered in Round 1 and the other half in Round 2. Last week in Round 1 the track events were the 50m sprint, the 200m sprint, and the 800m, along with the 4 x 400m relay. So, for those events alone, you have to have sprinters and you have to have middle distance athletes all stepping up to compete against one representative from all the other clubs.

“The field events were the shot putt, the long jump, and the pole vault. You can see there you’ve got to have a pretty diverse club that is trying to focus on as many disciplines as possible on the development sides of things.”

POINTS

Individual athletes earn points based on where they finish in their event (12 points for first etc.), with points tallied together to make up the team’s overall total. There are 12 clubs vying for the women’s title and 13 fighting for the men’s. After Round 2, which takes place on January 23 in Athlone, the top six clubs will advance to the finals.

The demands that such a competition place on a club mean that it is a major achievement to be able to take part at all. Apart from Killarney Valley, Leevale AC from Cork were the only other club in Munster who fielded a team.

“For us to have enough athletes of that age or above, that are competent enough in their disciplines to be able to represent us and compete – and score – is a significant breakthrough. We scored quite well across some of the events. There were some events that we struggled to cover because we’re still trying to develop the full range, but as a club we know that we need to develop those disciplines.

“And we have some younger athletes who are 13 or 14 and they’re now learning pole vault, for instance. If we can maintain the momentum then we will have pole vaulters in a couple of years’ time.”

ENJOYMENT

Griffin says the Killarney Valley competitors really enjoyed the experience, while also putting in some impressive performances.

“They loved it. The bigger powerhouse clubs have very high-profile athletes at their disposal; there were four Olympians whom our athletes got to compete against and interact with.

“Our own Sarah Leahy did exceptionally well in the 60m sprint. She ran the joint fastest time in the league, a personal best of 7.61 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever run 60m indoors.

“In the men’s 60m sprint, Conor Gammell made the top five and ran a personal best. We also had Sam Griffin, who is normally a long jumper, who ran a personal best of 7.58 seconds. He finished third in his race. Dara Looney, another long jumper who was doubling up on sprints, finished fifth and also had a personal best.

“Melissa Ahern, an up-and coming sprinter, ran 8.43 seconds, and Ellen Moloney, who was a first-timer at this level, ran a personal best as well. We have a good batch of sprinters competing and it’s good to expose them to this level.

“Alison Butler scored some valuable points for us in the 800m, and in the men’s 800 Oisín Lynch ran a massive personal best. Our shot putt thrower Kevin O’Callaghan is new to athletics; he had to throw an adult shot (7.2kg) for the first time and he did well, scoring five points for us. In fact, he threw the heavier weight nearly as far as he had been throwing the lighter weight.”

Griffin was keen to stress the importance of each individual team member to the overall group effort and whatever happens in Round 2, he is convinced that entering the competition will have huge benefits in the long run.

“We set ourselves of goal of having a team at National League level by 2023 so we’re a year ahead in that regard. It shows that we’re on the right trajectory.”

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