GAA PRESIDENT LIAM O’Neill has blasted inter-county players who suggested on Twitter that Monday morning’s All-Ireland SFC round two qualifier draw was rigged in order to pair Cavan with Kildare and branded such claims as ‘outrageous’.
The headline-grabbing game, which will see Kildare’s Seanie Johnston potentially lining out against his native county Cavan in the tie in Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday July 15th, has provoked much debate since the pairing was known after Monday morning’s live draw on TV3′s Ireland AM programme.
GAA stars like Meath’s Seamus Kenny, Wexford’s Ciaran Lyng and Tipperary’s Padraic Maher all subsequently used the social media site to intimate that the draw was fixed. However O’Neil has hit back at those theories, which he labelled as slanderous against him.
“It was outrageous to suggest that a draw would be rigged. They called into question the honesty of the entire TV3 crew, the games section in Croke Park, my honesty and the honesty of Liam Hayes. That is absolutely outrageous.
“It can be clearly seen that they were the sixth ball out of each pocket. I’d love someone to demonstrate to me how that can be rigged. They were put into the third bowl, Liam Hayes twirled them and I looked the other way and pulled them out. Why on earth would a GAA president lower himself to the state where he fixed a draw? What value would it be?
“Liam Hayes as you know is a very sober type of journalist, not someone you have banter with. He is someone for whom I have very serious respect. His only comment on me wasn’t all that favourable so to suggest that we would collude in a draw is stretching it a bit. For anyone to think that Liam Hayes would so anything other than the totally honest thing is outrageous and I’d like to stand up for him in the same way I stand up for myself.
“I take a very dim view of it. I am not going to do anything this time but something I am watching carefully and will not accept people slandering me like that. I have never been slandered before so I don’t know how to handle it. There is a stage if people continue to slander you that you will have to take action.”
O’Neill, who was speaking yesterday in Croke Park as the GAA and GPA announced their backing for the Concussion Awareness Video Campaign being launched brain injury specialists Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, pointed to his honesty during his career as a GAA administrator and called on players to show more responsibility when using social media.
“What’s really hurtful is I have never ever criticised any player in my life as an administrator. I have never said anything bad about any player and I find it outrageous that people would tweet what apparently was tweeted about us. I don’t know what I have done in my life to suggest to them that I would be dishonest but it is just not good enough.
“The message has to go to the players that doing it on Twitter doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility for what you have said. These people have been educated by the GPA, on funds provided by us, how to behave and how to handle press. They know what they are doing.
“It’s not a random chat, if you want a random chat you pick up your mobile. Those players put it on record. It was done for effect and done to suggest that in some way we would collude to be dishonest and I can’t see how they can justify their actions. I wouldn’t call it banter. It was one sided.”
O’Neill insisted that he has no problems with the usage of social media within the association despite not engaging in it personally. He also added that he does not have ‘any great respect’ either for people who anonymously post critical comments on GAA messageboards.
“You are talking to a person who was the first Leinster chairman to use email. I promote it fully. We use social media nationally and will not retreat away from it. I don’t tweet and my age group don’t tweet. It’s not that I am gauche about the thing. It’s just I don’t feel the need to express my views every minute of the day. I am a shy person and it wouldn’t be me to do it
“I would be aware if I had said some of the things about players that were said about me, I think the media and the players would be on my back immediately. If people want to do it and express how they feel then fine. But I think they have to realise there are consequences when they over step the mark.
“If I wanted to spend my life in negativity I would spend my life looking at message boards and these fellas who comment anonymously. It’s another sort of undercover activity that you can go on with a pseudonym and slate people. I have been the victim of that too but I have left that because I don’t think anybody has any great respect for people who write stuff and don’t put their name to it. The one thing I will say for the players is they are putting their name to it. But they might suffer the consequences of it and not everybody is going to be as easygoing as I am.”
Here’s O’Neill refuting the allegations on TV3 News yesterday evening.