Minor boss nearly called in the guards
For two Galway managers, titles offer no protection from disgruntled fans
Galway senior hurling boss Micheál Donoghue and minor counterpart Jeff Lynksey have become the latest managers to speak out against hate mail and other forms of abuse from the public.
Donoghue has revealed his way of dealing with angry mail from his 'pen pals' - straight into the recycling bin. But recently it took a nastier twist for Lynskey who considered calling in the gardaí after a Galway official was "verbally attacked" by the relative of an overlooked player.
"Even when you win All-Irelands, there's people waiting to catch you out," he remarked, speaking at Galway's All-Ireland minor and senior media event in Loughrea yesterday.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice's parting shot as Kerry football manager - to outline the extent of abusive communication received by management and players and the "box full of anonymous letters" he has at home - has sparked the GAA equivalent of '#MeToo'.
A variety of current managers (Limerick's John Kiely) and former (Mayo's James Horan and Anthony Daly during his time with Clare) have spoken of their experiences this week.
The latest two Galway examples involve current All-Ireland winning bosses who are just one win away from going back-to-back - Lynskey, in fact, is chasing a third All-Ireland in four seasons, against Kilkenny on Sunday week.
The profile may be lower but minor managers must contend with a very different constituency of the disaffected: disgruntled parents.
"There's a huge attention drawn when someone makes a Galway minor," the teacher explained. "The family name goes up: 'My son is a Galway minor'. There's a term called 'FOMO', fear of missing out. Or a 'helicoptor parent' or the 'lawnmower parent'. So, they will contact the county chairman, the bishop, the priest, local councillors, TDs ... all that stuff I've had for the last four years.
"Funny enough, if I'd a letter now I wouldn't read it," he added. "You'd get text messages, you'd get irate parents on the phone. But it's like anything else, with the training we have within teaching, you've got to keep control at all times."
One of those calling clerics, he clarifies, was right - pinpointing a potential minor they had missed, back in his first year, who was subsequently watched and brought in.
But while some parents have boycotted All-Ireland functions because sons didn't make the match-day squad, Lynskey has also observed a more serious element.
"Some of the stories I have are funny, some of them less so ... board officials would have been attacked, and that was only about six weeks ago," he said.
He clarified that the incident involved "the uncle of a lad". In what form did it take?
"Verbally attacked over stuff that I would have done regarding panels and not picking lads. And you're thinking, 'Right, is this the time now to go to the guards with it to protect myself'?"
He added: "The incident a couple of weeks ago did (concern me) because of the vitriol that was there and the angst that was there and the toxicity of it. So I said to myself, 'Right, if I hear another thing here, I'm going to move on this'."
Citing the abuse directed at Fitzmaurice, Lynskey concluded: "That's wrong, lads. It's not nice. When you've a young family at home that I have and he has ... we've young kids. Now, God help them if they come to my door - it would be sorted out fairly, fairly quick! But you just have to protect yourself and shield yourself."
Donoghue was also struck by the treatment meted out to the now ex-Kerry boss.
"We're in a society now where some things are acceptable and people just go with it. Ye boys are well experienced and can see the effort, commitment and sacrifices lads have to make. Sometimes the general public won't comprehend that. The amount of time that goes into it, it's the same as any profession," he said.
As for his own letterbox approach, he revealed: "I'll always open it and take it out but I recycle it pretty quick ... you can recognise some of the handwriting. It's regular. 'Oh that's Pat again'."
Galway are currently on a 13-match unbeaten SHC run. But management haven't been immune to flak, especially in year one (2016) when they lost the Leinster final to Kilkenny.
"It's part and parcel ... but I think some of it goes OTT," Donoghue reckoned.
"You'd want a thicker skin all right. I don't even open some of them now, to be honest with you. Straight into the bin."