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Name-calling Bairn deserves SFA's wrath but surely this should be punished too? EVERY GOAL .. EVERY GAME .. EVERY MONDAY Abuse ban was bang on - now it is time to crack down on elbows.

Byline: SPORTS VIEW MONDAY David McCarthy

STICKS and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.

How often did we hear or use that mantra while growing up? We didn't realise it at the time but names CAN hurt you. They are one of the weapons in the armoury of the bully, the bigot, the racist, the homophobe.

Their words, repeated often enough and with venom, can seep into the psyche of the victim, with sometimes tragic consequences.

The front section of this paper has covered many cases of kids being bullied to death and not always because they've been physically assaulted. No, these poor children have been ostracised, verbally abused, cyber-bullied to such a degree that they've thought suicide is the only way out.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me? If only. But it's not only children who are victims. In every walk of life it exists and every single opportunity to take it down and stamp on it, every chance to make the perpetrator squeal, should be taken.

Which is why the SFA's decision to hammer Falkirk's Kevin O'Hara with an eight-match ban for verbally abusing Dunfermline's Dean Shiels in last month's Irn-Bru Cup clash is bang on. And if his team-mate Joe McKee is also found guilty next Thursday, he should get the same.

Shiels can be a prickly, competitive character. We've all seen that side to his game but the adversity this player has had to overcome to enjoy a good career as a professional footballer is quite extraordinary.

Blinded in his right eye aged eight, the fact the Northern Irishman made it in the game at all - let alone went on to win international honours - is testament to his character as much as his ability.

In 2006, Shiels took the decision to have the eye removed altogether and yet again nothing stopped him advancing. Six years later, he was shortlisted for the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association Players' Player of the Year.

he That's an indication of the esteem with which Shiels is held by his peers. So it's fair to assume the vast majority - and the players' union - will be mortified that O'Hara, and possibly McKee, chose to try to get under his skin by taunting him about his disability. It's t little wonder Shiels lost the plot and ended up getting red carded near the end of that game.

O'Hara's ban will surely send out the message this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. Then again, to any right-minded person it would be just that, irrespective of the punishment.

But if the disciplinary committee have got it right with O'Hara, why haven't they taken a similarly hardline attitude with the sticks and stones that CAN break your bones? I'm talking g about the elbows in the face and the reckless tackling that smash shins and shatter noses.

The game is played at such a furious pace these days that even mistiming a tackle by a split-second can have catastrophic consequences. Just ask Everton and Ireland's Seamus Coleman. But that's part and parcel of the game. There will always be bad challenges that aren't malicious.

What there doesn't have to be is a wanton disregard for the wellbeing and safety of a fellow pro. Last month's Betfred Cup semi-final is a perfect example.

If Motherwell striker Ryan Bowman's early challenge on Fabio Cardoso had been properly dealt with, what followed wouldn't have happened. Bowman can argue all he likes that he didn't mean to do the defender but he caught him with an arm in the face and had referee Steven McLean done his job, he'd have been off the park.

Similarly, Cardoso leading with an elbow and catching Louis Moult on the eyebrow, splitting it and spilling blood. Dangerous, reckless and worthy of dismissal.

Then, the worst of the lot.

Bowman's elbow on Cardoso that left the Portuguese with a broken nose and looking like he'd been in a car crash. Weeks later, the player still isn't fit to play. He's being denied the chance to earn win bonuses or appearance fees because of the recklessness of a fellow professional.

But what jarred with me in the aftermath was the complete lack of remorse shown by Bowman to the condition of a stricken fellow pro.

He said: "It's the way I jump. I use my elbows for leverage, most strikers do that. I've outjumped him but his head hit my elbow. The first one is a yellow card. The second one, it's one of them, it happens in football all the time. But it's how I jump. I haven't intended to hurt him."

Maybe not but it doesn't look like he gave a toss that he DID badly injure the player. No attempt has been made to apologise. Then again, "His head hit my elbow..."

At least young O'Hara is believed to have sought out Shiels to say sorry. An eight-game suspension will carry him into the New Year before he's available to play against, you've guessed it, Dunfermline on January 2. It will give him plenty of time to consider the consequences of his decision to mock a man who has suffered severe misfortune but has overcome it.

But players who think it's OK to smash their elbows into the face of rivals because it's "part of the game" haven't been dealt with and that's worrying because the game has a duty of care to those who play it and the SFA has failed them.

But the players' union can do something about it. They can order their members to get their act together. Because the past few weeks have proved sticks and stones CAN break your bones and names really CAN hurt you.

CAPTION(S):

FURY O'Hara and Shiels, far left, and Well's Bowman, left

WAR WOUND Cardoso had his nose broken by Bowman's elbow in cup semi-final
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 13, 2017
Words:985
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