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Opinion: GAA violence is worse than UFC violence. Here’s why…

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by Adam Moynihan

Back when Conor McGregor rose to prominence, around ten years ago now, the UFC became quite popular in Ireland. The Dubliner’s fights were big events. You’d go in for a pint and hear lads chatting about spinning back fists and rear naked chokes. (Eyebrow-raising terminology, especially if you were only half-listening.)

I never got into MMA. I couldn’t warm to McGregor (it's nice being right every now and again) but the primary reason is that the spectacle is just too violent for me. I’m aware that some men have enjoyed observing other men getting their heads kicked in since Ancient Rome, and I’m sure long before that as well, so it’s not that I find the existence of combat sports surprising. It’s just that they don’t really appeal to me. I suppose I’m soft.

Give me a good clean game of Gaelic football any day, I would say to no one in particular, as my friends gleefully watched some Brazilian chap getting his face smooshed into the canvas in a blood-soaked flurry of fists and elbows and kneecaps to the nose.

Of course, the irony of my holier-than-though attitude is that the GAA is violent too, and arguably in a worse way. At least in the UFC you know what you’re getting. If you’re participating, there’s a good chance your arm might get ripped out of its socket or your skull might end up with more cavities than it strictly needs. If you’re sitting in the front row, you could get blood spatter on your shirt. You know that when you’re buying your ticket.

On the other hand, the violence in the GAA is a sneakier kind of violence. It’s always there, lurking in the long grass, waiting to show its angry head. Sometimes - in fact, a lot of the time - it doesn’t bother. But when it does reveal itself, things can get very bad, very fast.

Some of the harder bastards amongst you are probably rolling your eyes at this point. Sure, what would the GAA be without physicality, without a skirmish, without the odd belt?

That would be grand if it actually was just the odd belt. On the contrary, some of the violent acts we’ve seen on GAA pitches are far more serious than that. In fact, not only are they bad by GAA standards, they’re even bad by UFC standards.

Yes, some scenes that unfold in Gaelic football and hurling games are too violent and too dangerous for the most violent mainstream sport in the world.

Take the recent Johnny Glynn incident in the Galway hurling championship. The former county footballer was caught on video apparently choking an opponent with his hand fixed around his neck. The prostrate victim was visibly struggling for air. When he got back to his feet, the skin around his throat was badly marked. In typical GAA fashion both players were yellow-carded at the time.

But then, after the fact (no doubt prompted by the reaction on social media), the Galway CCC stepped in to investigate. Glynn received a one-match suspension – the same punishment he’d get if he was sent off for throwing a punch or for calling the referee a bollocks.

Grabbing an opponent around the trachea with the hand is illegal in UFC.

In January, during the All-Ireland Junior Club final at Croke Park, a Stewartstown Harps player aggressively grabbed Fossa’s David Clifford in the groin area. The referee didn’t see it but the TV footage is pretty clear. The incident sparked outrage but, as far as I can tell, no subsequent action was taken against the perpetrator.

Any attack to the groin area, including striking or grabbing, is illegal in UFC.

In 2022, when the championship match between Armagh and Galway turned into an all-out melee, Armagh panellist Tiernan Kelly, who was injured and not togged out, gouged Damien Comer’s eye. He received a six-month ban, but the timing meant he didn’t miss a single minute of intercounty football.

Eye gouging is illegal in UFC.

Also in 2022, shocking footage emerged from Roscommon showing a team mentor entering the field during an U17 match and physically assaulting a referee. The referee was knocked unconscious and had to be removed from the scene in an ambulance.

A 96-week ban – the maximum suspension allowable by the GAA’s current rules – was proposed at the time. I am assuming it was upheld, although I wasn’t able to find any confirmation online. As of July, the criminal case was still being processed by the courts.

A coach entering the octagon and knocking out a referee is illegal in UFC (and I have never heard of it happening).

As recently as last weekend, an amateur video from a Dublin hurling match brought the issue of GAA violence to the fore once again. Another ugly mass brawl turned uglier when some guy in plain clothes (it’s unclear what role, if any, he has with the team) smacked an opposition player in the side of the head with a hurley. The victim was not wearing a helmet.

‘Some guy’ entering the octagon and assaulting a fighter is illegal in UFC (and I have never heard of it happening).

These instances of violence that we have seen in Gaelic games are not just excessive for a field sport, they are excessive for the most vicious sport out there – a sport that is too bloody for a lot of viewers (myself included).

Does this bother top ranking GAA officials and the people responsible for handing out suspensions? Because it should.

This week the GAA launched a new ‘respect’ initiative alongside the FAI and the IRFU. “The three main sporting bodies in Ireland are working together to remind everyone within their games about the values of ‘Respect’ on and off the field,” the press release reads.

That sounds nice but the reality is that people who engage in violence on our playing fields exhibit a complete lack of respect to our games and “reminding” them of values is unlikely to change their behaviour. They need to face appropriate consequences for their actions - including permanent bans for dangerous assaults - not a slap on the wrist or some time in the bold corner.

Our leaders in Croke Park talk about players and coaches and supporters showing respect but by failing to properly punish violence, the association’s disciplinarians are showing a lack of respect to everyone else.

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Killarney set for festival of football at Spa GAA’s Club 7s

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The third annual Killarney Club 7s tournament will be staged next weekend (June 1-2) at Spa GAA grounds with 36 clubs and over 500 players due to take part.

The hugely successful event has already become a popular fixture of the local sporting calendar with large crowds flocking to Tullig for two days of football and entertainment.

With Heineken as title sponsors and support also coming from the likes of Kellihers Toyota, Killarney Credit Union, Sheahan’s, GMIB.ie, Daly’s SuperValu and O’Callaghan Coaches, attendees will be treated to top quality food and drink on site, as well as a wide array of live music. Acclaimed group Chasing Abbey are the headline act on Saturday with Super Céilí rounding things off on Sunday night.

On the pitch, men’s and women’s teams from all over the country will compete for €10,000 in prize money.

Matches will be played across three excellent pitches, all of which can be easily viewed from all areas of the grounds.

The group stages will be played on Saturday with the knockout rounds scheduled for Sunday. Participating teams include Confey from Kildare, St Finbarr’s from Cork, Castleknock from Dublin and, all the way from Germany, Berlin GAA.

The hosts Spa won the 2023 men’s final in dramatic fashion when a last-gasp goal saw them beat Cuala in front of a boisterous crowd.

Free shuttle buses will be running to Killarney when the festivities wind down at 10pm each night.

For more information, visit killarneyclub7s.ie.

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Fierce rivals Celtic and Athletic set for tense Kerry District League final

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Killarney Celtic’s dominance of the local junior soccer scene appears to show no signs of letting up after the Derreen-based club added more silverware to their cabinet last Sunday – but their fiercest rivals are hoping to rip up the script in this weekend’s league final.

Last week the Hoops defeated Tralee Dynamos in the final of the Greyhound Bar KO Cup to make it six-in-a-row in the county’s most prestigious knockout competition.

Lee Downing was the hero on the day as he scored twice in the first half to put his side in the ascendency. In the end, that was enough to get the job done as the Killarney lads held on for a 2-0 win.

The Celts have the opportunity to complete another league and cup double this weekend, although they will be pushed all the way by a talented young Killarney Athletic outfit in the Premier A final.

The match will take place on Sunday at 4pm in Mounthawk Park in Tralee and Brendan Moloney’s Blues will be eager to bring their neighbours’ remarkable run to an abrupt end.

Athletic will unfortunately be without stalwart Shane Doolan who recently suffered an ACL injury.

Supporters of both clubs are urged to make the journey to Tralee and get behind their teams for one last time this season.

The Killarney Athletic B team play Iveragh United in the Tommy Healy Cup final replay at the same venue at 1pm.

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