Portlaoise District Court Judge Catherine Staines made damning remarks about the GAA and the “appalling” behaviour of parents who put too much pressure on their children to win sports matches, in the hearing of a case in which a Clonaslee father and son were found guilty of assaulting a youth during a hurling match between Clonaslee and Rosenallis.
The boy, aged 15, and his father, aged 55, from Clonaslee, were both charged with assault, at Rosenallis GAA grounds, on April 20, 2017. The case was heard on Friday.
The injured party, a player with Rosenallis who lives in Clonaslee, gave evidence that the other youth knocked his helmet off, so he grabbed the youth in a headlock and they both fell to the ground.
He said that while on the ground, he saw the youth’s father approach him, saying: “Get the f**k up, there’s nothing wrong with you, stop faking,” before the man kicked him in the ribs.
The referee from the game, Mr Eoin Scully gave evidence that he saw the youth pull the injured party’s helmet off.
He said a melee broke out and mentors and parents ran on to the pitch with “roaring and shouting, pushing and shoving from all angles”. He estimated there were 60 to 70 people on the pitch.
He said he did not see the youth’s father near the injured party.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Staines said: “What I’ve heard today is absolutely shocking and absolutely appalling, the full blame for this is on the adults and parents in this case.
“There is far too much pressure being put on young people by their parents, the example being set by the parents is absolutely appalling. There were 70 people on that pitch roaring and shouting, this does not reflect well on either team and there is clearly no respect for your opponent or sportsmanship.”
The judge continued: “If this is the level the GAA has deteriorated to, it should just give up. The most serious thing is I believe young people are being told to lie.”
In the case of the son, Judge Staines said she wanted him to apologise for what he did, and if he does this she said she would give him the benefit of the probation act.
The father was told to write a letter of apology and pay €1,000 compensation. If he does this, Judge Staines said she would not impose a prison sentence.
She also said she wanted a report from the injured party’s family, indicating they were not receiving any intimidation or nasty comments from the accused or anyone else.
The judge also said she wanted the senior management of both Clonaslee GAA and Rosenallis GAA to come together, to tell their players that the game should be about sport and this type of behaviour is unacceptable.
The matter was put back to July 20.