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‘Violence on GAA fields needs to stop’

“Violence in the GAA must stop”

Association must address problems now says victim of assault

Edwin McGreal

Unless the GAA takes serious steps to tackle the issue of on-field violence, more and more assault cases arising from GAA games will appear before the courts.
That’s the verdict of a Kiltimagh man who was assaulted by an opposing player minutes after the final whistle of a championship game last year.
Darragh Sloyan (27) was the victim of an assault by Davitts GAA player James Cummins after a Mayo club championship match between Kiltimagh and Davitts in Ballindine on June 12, 2011. Mr Sloyan was left with a broken nose which required two operations to correct.
Now, speaking after the DPP case against Cummins was finalised in court last Friday, Sloyan has said that too many assaults take place on GAA fields with no thought for the consequences.
The Mayo News is aware of at least three other cases currently being investigated by An Garda Siochana in relation to alleged assaults on GAA fields in Mayo this summer.
“People seem to forget that it is meant to be about football and is a game - we all have to work in the morning,” Sloyan told The Mayo News last night. “When you go out and play you might get accidentally injured and miss work the next day, but for a fella to come up and hit you like that is just not acceptable.
“When I came home from hospital afterwards my eldest son, who was two and a half years old at the time, didn’t know who I was with the mask I had on my face. That wasn’t nice and I couldn’t leave the house for two weeks because I didn’t want to see anyone in the state I was in.
“The way it tends to happen in the GAA is that the person who was attacked often seeks revenge in the next game between the same teams. It can be acceptable to ‘do’ him in return. It’s GAA justice - ‘we’ll get him again’. It’s part and parcel of the GAA, a given. The original victim then is seen as a bollocks for pursuing it through the courts, not the man who did it.”
However, speaking in court last Friday when asked by Judge Mary Devins if he had anything to say, and also when speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Mr Sloyan said he would not have reported the matter to the Gardaí if the GAA had dealt with the issue themselves.
“I would not have gone down the legal route if it was dealt with by the GAA. I spoke to a County Board Official and I was told he [Cummins] got a four week suspension for what happened during the game [Cummins was sent-off during the match in question] but that what happened after the game was, essentially, not their problem.
“I said I was still wearing my jersey standing minding my own business in the middle of a GAA ground. If I was playing rugby or soccer I think the issue would have been dealt with much better. The player might be suspended for a long time. Essentially the GAA washed their hands of me.”
Sloyan said the GAA authorities also needs to be able to hand down stricter sanctions for cases which amount to assault, when the GAA do discipline a player.
“Eight weeks is the most you can get for striking a player with the fist. What if that strike does serious damage like in my case? What if worse than that happens? Don’t get me wrong, I love physical football. I’m not looking to change any rules here. I’m a big believer in the game as it is and people might say I’m no angel, but there’s a difference between tough, physical football and what happened here,” he said.
Sloyan, who played at Senior, U-21 and Minor level for Mayo, said he didn’t like to be making these comments but said he felt it is time something was done.
“I don’t want to sound like I am making a big deal out of this but it was so wrong and I was badly affected by it. I was hung out to dry here, left on my own by the GAA.
“I have great time for so many of the Davitts players and am very friendly with a good few of them. This is an issue between myself, James, and the GAA. It is not the fault of any one person in the GAA, it is endemic in the GAA throughout the country that this type of thing will be brushed under the carpet,” he said.
He also said that he wants the GAA to act retrospectively on this and discipline Cummins after he pleaded guilty in court.
“Why should he be playing when I was at home for weeks like an idiot? I want the GAA to punish him for what he did,” he added.
County Board Secretary Kevin O’Toole said at the moment the GAA had no way of implementing retrospective bans .
“We’re not a legal organisation, we’re an amateur sporting organisation. We will deal with any incident that is within our remit to deal with, but if there are no witnesses, like what was the case at the outset here, we can’t deal with it. Rugby and soccer would have the same problem.
“I do agree that clubs and players and the GAA need to take a look at what happens on the field and on the sideline. We have found that where we try to prevent these situations developing, we’re accused of overreacting, especially when it comes to the number of mentors on the sideline. We do need to be more proactive rather than reactive on the matter of discipline,” he told The Mayo News.
Castlebar District Court heard last June that Darragh Sloyan and James Cummins, Woodstock, Ballindine,  had exchanged words on the field after the latter was sent off. After the match, Cummins punched Sloyan while opposing players were shaking hands.
Cummins initially indicated he was contesting the charge before pleading guilty last June. Judge Mary Devins said she did not see the difference in an assault on the football field and assaults that come before her court that happen late at night in towns across the county.
In June the sum of €3,000 was offered to Sloyan, who had a loss of income of €10,000 from missing work due to the incident. Judge Devins said at least €6,000 would have to be made available if she was to deal with the matter without recording a conviction. At last Friday’s court, John O’Dwyer, solicitor for Cummins, said that an additional €3,000 was made available to Sloyan. Judge Devins gave Cummins the benefit of the Probation Act. 

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