Speaking at a conference on ethics in sport in November, Galway hurler Joe Canning claimed that GAA “players are afraid” to talk to the media.
The Galway star, who had been named as Hurler of the Year at the All Stars the previous night, used examples of his own experiences with the media, and highlighted a pivotal moment which damaged the relationship between GAA players and journalists.
“Things are blown out of proportion just to get clicks on a paper or on a media site,”Canning claimed.
“It needs to be pared back a bit, there’s no need for it.”
“It’s not everybody, but there’s a lot there that are like that.”
He has a point.
Certain media outlets care more about clicks than content, and people are more likely to click on links with dramatic or sensational headlines. It’s largely a case of revenue, with websites needing a way to turn a profit in a competitive digital market.
The relationship has to work both ways. If players are open and honest in interviews, they deserve to quoted fairly and truthfully in turn.
Canning claimed the reportage surrounding his “unsportsmanlike” comments directed at Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin after the 2012 drawn All Ireland final was a turning point in the relationship between GAA players and the media.
“I was annihilated for that ‘unsportsmanlike’ comment,” he reflected. “I shouldn’t have said it, but it was sensationalized.”
The 29 year old Portumna star also made the point that in his next sentence – which was printed “but not picked up on” – he said that Galway had to be more like the Cats in their approach.
“The way that interview was portrayed probably cut down a lot of relationships between players and media. Since then, players aren’t as open when talking to the media, which is sad really, because we want to promote the game.”
As he pointed out, it shouldn’t be a case of “us vs them” in terms of players and the media, but sadly, this seems to be the case at times.
Players are now coached in how to deal with the media, and this often comes across in interviews. The Dubs in particular are often criticised for a perceived lack of emotion when dealing with the media.
Earlier this year, Jim Gavin restricted one-on-one broadcast interviews due to his perceived witch-hunt against Diarmuid Connolly following the forward’s clash with a linesman in the Leinster Championship. The Dublin manager lashed out at both The Sunday Game and Sky Sports, and described the media coverage as imbalanced.
Players and managers may be frustrated by the media, but the opposite can also be true.
I have spoken to a number of Irish journalists who have found that interviewing certain inter-county players to be a frustrating experience due to a lack of openness. Several have remarked that they prefer to interview former inter-county players because they are far more candid and less guarded.
GAA players shouldn’t be afraid to talk to the media, and while journalists have every right to express their thoughts and opinions, they also have a responsibility to treat players with honesty.
A higher quality of reporting could led to a higher quality of interviews. It is important for the coverage of GAA that the relationship does not deteriorate further, or the majority of interviews won’t be worth watching at all.
It is up to both sides to ensure that players aren’t “afraid to talk to the media”.