Former footballer and Mayo TD Alan Dillon accuses Joe Brolly of ‘going full circle’ on GAA indiscipline

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TD and former Mayo footballer Alan Dillon has accused GAA pundit and former All-Ireland winner Joe Brolly of going “full circle” in his stance on indiscipline in the organisation.

r Dillon said he supported last weekend’s Roscommon GAA referee strike and argued that “similar measures” should be taken if the “ugly side of sports is not tackled”.

Roscommon referees called their weekend strike after an alleged assault at a Roscommon U17 match last week, which left an official in hospital.

The former Mayo captain, who is also a member of the Oireachtas Sports Committee, said: “It is time for people to accept there is a serious problem here and not put this down to a once off.

“Last November, I asked for all sporting organisations to account for their experiences of abuse and threatening behaviour towards referees, officials and players after Dublin underage soccer matches were called off as referees withdrew from officiating. At a subsequent committee hearing, we heard what happened on and off the fields for several sporting bodies in this country.

“I repeat again today what I said in committee on December 1 last: ‘I acknowledge the huge contribution our match officials play. We might not agree with them at all times, but they deserve the utmost respect when carrying out their duties’.

“A few days after making these comments, I found myself in the sharp crosshairs of Joe Brolly’s pen who questioned why I highlight the GAA when it comes to referees and officials being abused and targeted.

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“In his weekly column, Mr Brolly said I ‘mustn’t go to many GAA matches’ and wrote ‘evidence and politicians are not a natural fit’.

“Well Joe, I’ve attended many games as a player, supporter, parent and proud GAA member. On a rare occasion, now and then unfortunately, I witness or hear accounts of referees and officials being abused and threatened by players, team officials and supporters.

“I emphasise it is in the minority, but it is a problem the GAA must address to stamp out entirely.

“As for evidence, well what happened in Roscommon is not a once-off as the reports of other referees testify. We saw another high-profile incident during a Connacht Club semi-final last January where in referee’s Jerome Henry official report on the incident, the match official detailed the verbal and physical abuse that he and his colleagues suffered in the aftermath. Intimidation, abuse and targeting officials is a stain on our GAA games.

“Joe was a decent footballer but sometimes, and I know this well, forwards can have an off day and miss the goalposts by a country mile.

“Unfortunately, events have since shown Joe was so far off the mark in response to my initial comments on this matter that he has now gone full circle to state last Sunday, ’In the GAA, we treat referees like s**t.’

“I’m glad to read of Joe’s conversion on this serious matter and highlight this dark side of our games. Only by bringing these matters under the spotlight from such high-profile figures can we achieve success.”

While highlighting the good side of the GAA in his Sunday Independent column on December 4 last year, Joe Brolly wrote: “Why Dillon chose to drag the GAA into it isn’t entirely clear. He mustn’t go to many GAA games.” He added: “It was disappointing indeed to hear Dillon saying what he did. David Gough asked the TD to produce evidence. Evidence and politicians are not a natural fit.”

However writing in the wake of the Roscommon incident, Mr Brolly’s most recent column last Sunday, September 4, called for blanket reforms in the GAA to protect referees and to punish those who would mistreat them.

“The GAA needs to create a set of draconian rules that outlaw any criticism of the officials, any remonstration of any kind and any physical contact,” he wrote.

“I suggest that if a player criticises a decision or remonstrates with a referee, he receives an immediate red card and a minimum eight-week ban. For a mentor, a red card and a minimum 16-week ban. Deliberate physical contact should result in a red card and minimum 12-month ban for a player. For a mentor, a lifetime ban. Similar rules should apply to spectators.

“Referees are the lifeblood of our community and that everyone of them should be respected and protected by all of us. By doing this, the GAA will be forced, finally, to take real action.”

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