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Why sports people in the public eye need to be careful of what they say or sing

Donegal boss Jim McGuinness was right when he insisted all mobile phones were taken from players before a game

Ireland women© SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrickSunday World

MAYBE Jimmy McGuiness had the right idea after all.

He was roundly criticised when it emerged he collected all the Donegal players’ mobile phones hours before the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin in Croke Park to ensure the team wasn’t leaked.

One suspects Republic of Ireland women’s manager Vera Pauw and the FAI are regretting they didn’t so something similar in the wake of the controversy about the team singing a pro-IRA chat after their historic World Cup win over Scotland.

Granted the affair has been blown out of all proportion. Given all the scandals in football over the years, it is a bit rich of UEFA announcing they are opening an investigation into ‘potential inappropriate behaviour’ by the players.

European football’s governing body confirmed an ethics and disciplinary inspector will oversee the case, with information on the matter to be available in ‘due course’.

Vera Pauw said the team apologised ‘from the bottom of our hearts’ for the video which emerged on social media after the 1-0 win at Hampden Park on Tuesday night.

One assumes the FAI will escape with the proverbial ‘slap on the wrist’ and everybody can then focus on preparing for next year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

However, it has taken some of the gloss from what was a fabulous achievement and a truly historic moment in Irish football.

But it is another cautionary lesson for all sports organisations and players about the hidden dangers which lurk around social media in an era of over-bearing political correctness.

I guess some of us will never understand why some people simply cannot resist living out their lives through the prism of social media. Nothing seems private anymore. It has to be shared.

The GAA too has had its share of controversies over inappropriate material being aired on social media.

It is ironic that at a time when print journalists are denied access to team dressing rooms, photographers and videographers are now welcome with open arms.

Team managers appear to have forgotten the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words.

It is interesting to note how this policy has evolved over the years.

Occasionally we see TV footage on Reeling in the Years of the late Mick Dunne from RTE interviewing players and managers live on television immediately after All-Ireland hurling and football finals during the 1970s and 1980s.

These interviews must have been a TV floor manager’s worst nightmare.

The dressing room was jammed with sweating fans; there was much heaving and pushing and every word spoken by the victorious manager was greeted by a raucous roar and there was the prospect of the camera capturing a nude player on the way to the shower.

By the late 1980s a bit or order had been restored. The TV cameras had moved elsewhere; dressing rooms were still a no-go area for photographers, but reporters were allowed access.

It was a unique experience being allowed into the winners and losers dressing rooms moments after the final whistle sounded in an All-Ireland final.

In those days it was customary for the winning manager and team captain to visit the losers’ dressing room to commiserate with them.

The wonderful speech Meath’s Sean Boylan made in the Dublin dressing room after the famous four match saga in the Leinster championship in 1991 deserved to be posted on social media.

But nobody had ever heard of twitter back then though the third replay was the first time I used a mobile phone in Croke Park.

Eliciting quotes in the losers dressing room was a thankless job though. It was like intruding on a family who had just been bereaved.

Anyway, we were ultimately taken out of our misery when reporters were banned from dressing rooms.

Team managers apparently didn’t notice that a few innocuous quotes would do a lot less harm that an inappropriate video posted on-line.

I imagine the reaction of managers in all sports to the incident in Hampden Park was ‘there, but for the grace of God’.

It is a cautionary tale.

Nothing is really private any longer and those in the public eye must be mindful of what they say or, in this case, sing.

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