SEAMUS HICKEY HAS revealed that Peter Casey reached out to the Gaelic Players Association for support following last month’s social media controversy that forced him to take a drug test in order to clear his name.

A video recorded from an Instagram story showed a friend putting an object into Casey’s hand during a night out in a Galway pub and rumours began to swirl online that it was an illicit substance. 

The 22-year-old Limerick forward subsequently took a drug test and published the results, which came back negative for any traces of drugs in his system. He also clarified that his friend handed him change after purchasing a round of drinks, while providing CCTV footage to show that. 

“It translates how hurt Peter was, and Peter would have contacted us, and myself obviously,” said Hickey.

“We would have supported him as much as we possibly could with what we would have given him in terms of outlets for advice and action.”

GPA chief executive Paul Flynn explained yesterday that young inter-county players are being educated by the players’ body on the pitfalls of social media.

“It is a question of making players aware of the environment of social media,” says Hickey, the GPA chairman.

“At our rookie symposium, the first time this year, (it was) hugely important about educating players on what they’re getting themselves into and what sort of exposure they had.

“They’re constantly on watch. Everything you put on a social media platform is there and it’s in real-time. Yes, you might be able to take it back but there’s screenshots then and everything like that.

“The flip side of that then is that, yes, we reinforce things and make them aware, but then when things happen you’ve got vicious trolling, relentless sledging. It’s a really, really disheartening element of society that it’s there.

“Thankfully there’s really good initiatives, anti-bullying initiatives and online initiatives from a myriad of different places. It’s cross-sector, to try to tackle it, from artists to entertainment to sports players to people in the workforce, schools obviously with young people.

“This is happening, but from a players’ association we really have to wrap around our supports, our counselling, be a listening ear for players when they’re hurting.

“Especially when players are targeted after a missed score, or a foul in a game, that’s a really lonely place to be. You need your team, you need your family and for us then we need to be there and to offer a hand and to offer our support and that’s what we try to do.”

GPA chairman Seamus Hickey.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Meanwhile, the GPA are likely to table a motion at next year’s Congress calling for the GAA to review its current concussion management guidelines.

“I wouldn’t for a second like to think that the GAA don’t take this issue seriously but we would like to see it expedited,” explained former Limerick defender Hickey.

“There are procedures and protocols that you do have to go through to instigate changes like this, a dedicated change and we think there’s a basis for it.”

At the launch of the GPA’s annual report last Friday, Flynn revealed he had been concussed five times during his Dublin career, while Hickey admitted he “probably suffered undiagnosed concussions” while representing Limerick.

“I was just a sign of the times, I didn’t know a whole pile about it, I know that referees and officials and even medical staff probably weren’t as aware or conscious of it,” said Hickey, who retired from inter-county duty last year.

“For me, it’s hugely important. If you’re talking about legacy injuries after you’re finished, there’s no greater legacy than a brain injury and it’s something that in all contact sports. If you actually look across at the litigation side of things in American sports for concussion, it has significant and long-ranging consequences.

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“For us, because of the greater public awareness, the media awareness of it, that you’re watching a game and you’re seeing a guy groggy and concussed, it’s too easy to see it now and it’s actually too easy to recognise because people are far more aware of it.

“You have a duty of care to the player, a duty of care to the sport that you’re actually protecting the image of it and that’s why it’s as important as it is.

“I suppose we had high-profile cases during the summer, especially with the football, even in hurling some of the hits that we actually saw, it’s very important that when the players leave the field that they can pick up their kids, they can do a day’s work, they can study, they can do all these things and that’s essentially what’s at the centre of it.”

Hickey leaves the field after tearing his cruciate against Clare in 2013.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Hickey recalled one particular game – the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final against Clare -where he may have suffered a concussion after taking a bang to the head. Shortly afterwards, he tore his ACL and believes the two may have been linked.

“I tore my cruciate against Clare in 2013, before that my head had hit the turf and I’m constantly wondering whether that had an issue. Because I was a bit groggy after it and I’m constantly wondering whether that had an influence in me not turning the way I would have turned because it was such a freak injury.

“Why did that never happen to me before and what were the circumstances that were different in that to any of the other playing minutes that I’ve had?” he asked.

“That’s only one specific instance, I’ve played underage soccer and God knows went up for a header and I can’t remember most of that day. I’ve experienced it, it is multi-sport, so it’s very very important that we understand it as much as we can, education as Paul said is hugely important.”

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