A few weeks back, a letter to the editor in the Donegal Democrat highlighted the frustrations of a ‘flabbergasted football fan’.
The writer appealed to parents, guardians, uncles and aunties of boys and girls playing underage sport to cop themselves on at games.
The supporter wrote: “I am a veteran of the sideline in various codes and it truly astonishes me what some people shout in at ten and eleven year old girls and boys at games - "nail him" the catch-cry that sticks in my mind from a recent game. I kid you not.”
The behaviour of supporters on the sidelines, no matter what the sport, is an issue that raises its head every so often. And unfortunately the abuse of match officials shows no sign of getting any better.
I’ve often wondered what it must be like for a referee to be the target of the kind of abuse we hear at so many games. Maybe they’re thick-skinned, I don’t know, but there have been so many games that I’ve been at recently (and I’m talking mostly GAA here) where the abuse has crossed a line.
Thankfully, though, there's hope.
Just the other week, I was in Glenfin for a challenge game with Letterkenny Gaels. When the referee didn’t show up, I was handed the whistle.
It might have been only a challenge game for our club’s U-13 girls team, but when the ball was thrown in, it was pretty clear that both teams wanted to win.
A few days later, and I was refereeing again, and this time the match was a challenge between Gaels and St. Eunan’s U-13s.
I’m happy to report that over the two games, the behaviour of the players was a credit to themselves and their clubs. Okay, the odd decision was questioned (imagine that!), but generally the players got on with what they were there to do - play football.
Both games attracted a fair number of parents and again, they watched the match, left the coaching to the coaches and the football to the children on the pitch. It just made both games that bit more enjoyable for everyone.
If only it was that way all the time.
Play-off time again for Horgan's Harps
This time three years ago, Finn Harps were preparing for the promotion play-offs as they faced into a semi-final with UCD over two legs, and then the final against Limerick.
It was a memorable time for the club and its supporters with BJ Banda the hero following his memorable strike in the 2-0 home win against Limerick.
Banda is no longer around at Finn Park, having signed for Letterkenny Rovers for this season. And as he lined out for the Ulster Senior League in last weekend’s FAI Interprovincials which were hosted in Donegal, his old boss Ollie Horgan made the trip to United Park to take in the 1st leg of the Drogheda United v Shelbourne play-off.
The second leg was on Monday night and what a game that turned out to be with Shels having two men sent off in the first half and Drogheda overturing a 1-0 deficit from the first leg to eventually win on penalty kicks.
I think deep down, Horgan, and probably most Harps fans, were hoping for a Drogheda win against Shels. Hopefully now Harps can get a good result in Drogheda this Friday night to set up what should be another cracking night of action in Ballybofey on Friday week.
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