McGrath critical of the hurlers on the ditch
GAELIC GAMES:It wasn’t quite cyber-bullying but Tipperary’s hurlers were subjected to some severe social media abuse, mostly from their own supporters, following their All-Ireland semi-final collapse to Kilkenny last summer, something midfielder Shane McGrath reckons was “totally un-called for”.
McGrath has just returned from several months travelling abroad, including Australia and South America, and while that has given him a fresh perspective on the game, and indeed life, the 2010 All-Ireland winner has also realised things got out a little of perspective last summer.
“It was a tough time for everyone,” he said, “and to be honest, I thought it was totally uncalled for, some of the abuse that some of the players were getting, both on the social media, and in the media or whatever. Worst of it all is a lot of it was coming from our own people in Tipperary, and I just thought it was very bad form.
“At the end of the day we’re amateur players. We train like professionals. This is practically a professional organisation, the GAA. I mean we train very hard – six, seven times a week for maybe nine, 10 months of the year. We don’t go out to lose a game. Just the way the Kilkenny game panned out, none of us planned that – management or players. We couldn’t foresee it. I mean, that happens every day in sport. Teams go out and they just don’t perform, and we didn’t perform.
“So it was hard to take. Luckily enough, we all had club games and we all had our families and friends to go back to maybe a week later. A lot of lads had big wins for their clubs and they kind of just put it to the back of their minds.”
It is, however, an increasingly worrying burden for players from both codes, who must ensure such criticism doesn’t develop into full-blown cyber-bullying. McGrath says it’s a factor he never realised he would have to deal with when starting out.
“Nine or 10 years ago it wasn’t there, would have been unheard of, but it’s just the way it is now. . . It works both ways, players have to be mature about what they say on it too, and they just have to take what’s said to them on the chin, unfortunately.
“We are in the limelight. Hurling and Gaelic games is probably number one in Ireland and always will be. So that’s just the way it is. You just have to take it with a pinch of salt and move on. You know you have your families and friends – people that are close to you, people that mean something to you. . . That’s what really matters at the end of the day.”
McGrath, speaking in Croke Park at the launch of the 2013 International Hurling Festival, is clearly refreshed from his recent break from the game, and reckons more players should pause occasionally to enjoy the other aspects of life.
“I was away for the bones of four months altogether, just got back before Christmas, and it was very nice to get away, get to parts of the world. You realise that there’s a bigger world out there, apart from hurling and the GAA. It makes you appreciate the lads at home then as well, makes it nice to get back in training.”
“Any county minor that stars nowadays, nine times out of 10 he’s going to be brought into a senior panel the following year, at 18-19 years of age. So he’s not getting a chance to maybe go away, do the J1 or do things like that for the summer, in America. They’re missing out on that.
“I feel that a young player should go away for a summer, just experience it. Then they come back and they appreciate things more. Being away for the last few months has renewed my appetite for the game . .”
Now he is now looking forward to renewing acquaintances with new hurling manager Eamonn O’Shea: “The majority of the panel would know Eamon from working with him for the few years up to 2010, when we were lucky enough to win the All-Ireland.
“A lot of people would have known Eamon anyway because of that, any of the new lads in.”