Connacht GAA secretary hits out at ‘major cancer’ of social media attacks

John Prenty worried abuse of players and officials will drive them from association

Connacht GAA secretary John Prenty has launched a swingeing attack on social media, describing as "a major cancer" "the amount of abuse that is being perpetrated on our volunteers on too many occasions during the year".

His comments are contained in his annual report to the provincial convention, which takes place next Monday, January 17th, in the GAA centre in Bekan, Co Mayo.

“While being grateful to the media outlets as mentioned above,” he writes, “I regret to say that many social media platforms are proving to be a major cancer on our association.

“It appears that anything can be said online, tweeted or written by faceless, nameless people. It is not alright to say whatever you like about:

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– our players who volunteer to play our games and who give of their best at all times

– our club and county management teams

– our referees who also volunteer to officiate at our games at all times

– our county and club officers, who volunteer their time day-in and day-out and without whom our association would not survive.

“There is a saying that the man who never made a mistake never made a decision. This also applies to all of the groups that I have mentioned above – but none made deliberate mistakes.

“All are genuine people who always give of their very best for the GAA. We should remember that all of them are not working in isolation and have parents, partners, children, siblings and feelings and all of them are affected by the online abuse being meted out on a regular basis by faceless cowards.

“Huge damage is being done to our association by this behaviour and every effort must be made to root out the perpetrators by the association as a whole. Otherwise many genuine people will step away from becoming involved in our games. It is time to shout stop.”

Prenty also reveals that the Connacht GAA centre of excellence at Bekan, which has recently been attracting positive notices for its ability to host indoors matches in the FBD competition, will shortly be making a further contribution to the province.

According to his report, the centre will this year be in a position to sell electricity to the national grid and offset the income against the provincial council’s energy bills.

“In 2022 we are ready to publish an Energy Master Plan following the installation of 500 solar panels. These . . . are currently running the centre and have potential well above our electrical requirements.

“Recently we were accepted as an exporter of electricity to the ESB whereby we will be exporting our excess electricity to the ESB and invoicing them for same which will be offset against our current ESB.”

It is hoped that the energy master plan will over the next five years enable Connacht GAA to become ‘energy neutral’ or fully self sufficient in its energy needs.

Elsewhere in his report, the secretary warns against diminishing the influence of provincial councils. He was speaking in the context of October’s special congress on the future of the intercounty football championship.

“What was agreed at special congress,” he writes, “was that change is necessary but that the provincial championships have an important part to play in the overall championship structure.

“The provincial councils have a hugely important part to play in the overall structures of the counties and clubs under their jurisdiction, especially in the areas of coaching and games development, club and county infrastructure and administration and the promotion and development of our games at schools and college level.

“Without a viable provincial championship, played at an appropriate time, none of the above will be possible going into the future. What the provincial councils require is more significance for their competitions.

“Older people had an expression of ‘I feel it in my waters’ when they had a premonition about something. Currently I have ‘a feeling in my waters’ about the overall viability, rank and desire to have provincial councils in the overall structure of the association. If it ever comes to pass it would be a retrograde step.”