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PADDY WALSH COLUMN: Thugs in GAA need to taste medicine.

Byline: PADDY WALSH

WE'VE all been there - at least those of us with an out and out passion for our sport (no, that doesn't include you Mr. and Mrs. Prawn Sandwich).

We've all stood on the terraces and called the referee names we wouldn't use to a dog and vilified players on the opposing side - and indeed on our own team - as frustration borne out of another poor performance pushes us to the limits.

There's no condoning this, of course.

Referees and players are human beings like the rest of us and no doubt, if they're within ear shot, feel the pain of a public humiliation.

But at least the great majority of fans confine their onslaughts to the verbals and while words do hurt they don't feel half as bad as the sticks and stones.

Which is why every right-thinking sports supporter, indeed just every right-thinking person, should stand up and applaud the punishments handed out to those "fans" who brought sport to a new low as a result of their disgraceful attack on Kerry referee Gearoid O'Regan.

The match official wasn't just assaulted at the end of the game between Ballyduff and Kilmoyley in the Kerry Senior Hurling Championship semi-final - he was the victim of one of the most outrageous and vicious attacks ever perpetrated on anyone on a sports field.

On Monday last those involved got their just 'rewards' when the Kerry County Board handed out the stiffest of punishments in keeping with the disgraceful scenes.

They included a two year ban for four of the Ballyduff players; expulsion from the GAA for one spectator; and two other spectators barred for life from participating in or attending GAA games for life (it can only be hoped they don't bring their brand of support to some other sporting activity).

On top of this, all of the Ballyduff's teams were flung out of this year's competitions with the club forced to cough up a EUR2,000 fine while also entering a EUR5,000 bond to be forfeited if any club member is involved in an incident with a referee in the next three years (why that shouldn't apply indefinitely is beyond this columnist, but there it is).

The County Board chairman, Sean Walsh, said the punishments would send out a message that such actions on or off a football field would not be tolerated and maintained that the penalties had fitted the crime in this particular case.

Full credit to the Kerry GAA authorities for taking this action and showing the way for other Boards who may have adopted a much too lenient approach to such incidents in the past.

It's time the hooligans felt the pain for a change.

CAPTION(S):

CONCERN: Scenes like this must be stamped out before they ruin the GAA
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2003
Words:466
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