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O'Neill: Any spit victims entitled to be angry

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GAA president Liam O'Neill Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

GAA president Liam O'Neill Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

SPORTSFILE

GAA president Liam O'Neill Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

GAA president Liam O'Neill has reiterated his "abhorrence" of spitting in the wake of the latest such accusation – the third alleged incident of this type in recent weeks.

The difficult question, however, is how Croke Park tackles this apparent new scourge with O'Neill admitting there may be a "legal difficulty" with elevating the act of spitting at an opponent to a charge of bringing the game into disrepute.

The spitting controversy has become back page news in the last week after two separate alleged flashpoints at Allianz Football League matches.

• On Sunday evening, Leitrim captain Emlyn Mulligan alleged – via his Twitter account – that he was spat at by an Offaly footballer during their Division Four clash in Carrick-on-Shannon.

"I've seen some dirty acts in GAA but for a player covered in blood to spit blood on a fellow player's face (mine) is disgraceful carry-on," he tweeted.

The Offaly county board has not yet publicly responded, while the Central Competitions Control Committee will examine the referee's report before deciding if an investigation is warranted.

• The above incident came just a week after Donegal's currently injured Footballer of the Year, Karl Lacey, was reportedly spat at by a Tyrone supporter at the end of their tempestuous league encounter in Omagh.

The supporter in question faces a potentially lengthy suspension after being hit with a disrepute charge by the Tyrone CCC, and has the option of seeking a hearing.

• Meanwhile, over the weekend, YouTube footage emerged of an incident from the recent All-Ireland intermediate football final between eventual champions Fr Rock's of Cookstown and Kerry side Finuge.

In the clip, Paul Galvin appears to be on the receiving end of a spit from an opponent and wipes his face. The former Footballer of the Year then protests to another opponent, Tyrone county star Owen Mulligan, who is not the player involved in the alleged spitting incident.

Mulligan tweeted on his newly opened account yesterday that "this alleged spitting incident is getting out of control and I repeat alleged." He said he was backing his club, Fr Rock's, on the issue.

Against this backdrop, the GAA president has repeated his strongly-held views on spitting. "I'm not going to comment on this specific allegation (relating to the Leitrim/Offaly game) because there is due process," O'Neill said, "but any member of the association to be at the receiving end of a spit is very entitled to be angry. I spoke last week about my abhorrence of incidents like this."

However, on the tricky subject of whether such offences (if proven) can be elevated beyond a 'category two' infraction, which carries just a minimum one-match ban, O'Neill cautioned: "There are intricacies of the disciplinary system over whether the referee has dealt with it or not. That exists, subject to those constraints.

"We have a motion going through Congress now (relating to abuse). We have the one for bringing the association into disrepute and we can go from eight weeks to expulsion on that – and that's a pretty powerful tool to have.

"It's not just in the GAA world, sometimes life and society in general is challenged by people who misbehave. Sometimes we have the tools and sometimes we find we haven't covered every single angle," the Laois man added.

"We have tried to be as proactive as possible on this issue with the respect initiative and we are promoting respect all across the organisation."


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