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When winning is everything, can violence ever be far away?

Wednesday, 22nd February, 2012 4:59pm

Story by Paul Murphy
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When winning is everything, can violence ever be far away?

That scion of a great hurling family, Xi Jinping, steps forward, hurley firmly gripped in classic style, takes a short run and swings it in a wide arc to send that ball high into the air.

Young Xi lobs the ball upfield to his forward, Hu Jintao, whose Fijian-born mother excelled as a member of that great camogie team of 1926. Sure, you couldn't make it up. And wasn't it a pleasure to see it?

It makes for a pleasant contrast to all this 'violence in sport' stuff. I mean, you can't turn around now but someone is taking a potshot at someone else. It's everywhere, in practically every sport. Should we be surprised if the genteel croquet crowd took to one another with their mallets? It might be coming to that.

And then you had those two heavyweights, Dereck Chisora and David Haye, who were involved in that "bit of a shemozzle" at the Olympiahalle in Munich the other night? Handbags at five paces it was not.

According to media reports, members of their respective camps joined in the fray involving the two British heavyweights. Huge men lumbered across the room, knocking over bottles, tables and chairs, with onlookers and entourages all wading in.

All of this took place in the wake of Chisora's world heavyweight title defeat by Vitali Klitschko. Chisora later had his collar felt by the Munich boys in blue but was released after questioning. The polizei are also anxious to have a word with Haye (who has apparently turned up in London this week). Chisora, his trainer Don Charles and Haye's manager/trainer Adam Booth were left bleeding.

Queensberry Rules have gone out the window. Chisora was already in trouble with the WBA for his unprovoked face-slapping of Klitschko at the pre-fight weight-in.

Of course, we already had the Battle of Portlaoise in which assorted players, officials and spectators of Dromid Pearse and Derrytresk went at it hammer and tongs. Any one of the incidents of violence on that pitch would have seen the ordinary citizen in the street up before the local district judge, with the possible prospect of a further appearance before a circuit court judge.

We, and by 'we' I mean everybody involved in sport, need to look seriously at what is happening.

Is all of this a mirror of what we all experience in society outside sport, gratuitous and unrelenting violence greeted by a shrug of the shoulders? When racism, another form of violence, raised its ugly head in English soccer recently, sports pundit Eamon Dunphy was unequivocal in his remedy - throw the racists out of the game.

Writing in a national newspaper about incidents of violence at a GAA match in Tyrone last November, former Meath star Colm O'Rourke said that watching grown men giving vent to their frustrations after a match is a regular occurrence and it happens in every club and in every county. "It does not make it right, but I did not go to bed on Sunday night worrying about the image of the GAA or whether mothers and fathers all over the country would look at this and say that their children were not going to be involved with such an organisation.

"Yet to suggest there is a growing climate of violence in the GAA in general because of incidents like last week is altogether misleading and, in point of fact, just plain wrong," he asserted.

O'Rourke is right, of course. It would be unfair to say that there is a growing climate of violence in the GAA or any other sport. It would also be unfair to suggest that indiscipline is spreading.

Most sports organisers place huge emphasis on respect and discipline and are unwavering in their condemnation of people who think they can play a dirty game. Hundreds of Gaelic games, soccer matches and boxing bouts are played out every week to a strict code of conduct.

However, it is the way that certain blatant incidents of violence are dealt with by organisations which causes unease among the wider public. To write these incidents off as "a bit of a punch-up" or "losing the head" does a disservice to sport, and to the very many who play fairly, and without any hint of violence.

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