Setanta Ó hAilpín features in our notorious training ground bust-ups

Setanta Ó hAilpín features in our notorious training ground bust-ups
Setanta Ó hAilpín sorts out a dispute with Carlton teammate Cameron Cloke at a pre-season training match back in 2009.

THE narrative over the past month has been one of national fraternity in our combined mission to overcome the scourge that is the coronavirus. To do this, it requires us to stay at home for the good of the team.

Of course, in reality, being couped up at home with the family is far from ideal and the claustrophobic lock-ins of the pandemic will see tempers and patience tested to the limit.

Don't despair, it happens to the best of clans. And as awkward as some relationships may be within the home, you can take solace from the many cases from professional sports, where players lost their cool with team-mates in far less stressful conditions.

For this list, we are not going to look at the common bust-ups while on the field of play, but rather look at the raw fury engendered between players are forced together, day-in-day-out, in the close confinement of the training ground.

We will start with a famous contretemps on the training ground within the notoriously vitriolic world of Aussies Rules. What makes this one special is that it includes one of our own favourite sons getting caught up in a kerfuffle during a training ground disagreement.

Setanta Ó hAilpín v Cameron Cloke 

Setanta Ó hAilpín was the most high-profile GAA stars ever to call it a day on these green shores and head Down Under to make a career with the distant relative that is Aussie Rules. While there, the former hurling All-Star made a reputation for himself as a scoring forward with Melbourne side Carlton. Unfortunately, the Na Piarsaigh man also made a name for himself due to a training match wrangle he had with one of his Blues' teammates Cameron Cloke.

An innocuous grapple for the ball one day, during a pre-season training match, saw Cloke grab hold of Ó hAilpín as the Corkman secured a low ball. Cloke did not let go and proceeded to hold Ó hAilpín down with a wrestling-style grip. It went on for a while and Cloke was not for letting go. 

A visibly irked Ó hAilpín tried to pull away, this way and that, to no avail until he eventually wrenched himself free and in frustration decked his Aussie teammate with a haymaker. Cloke went down while Ó hAilpín prepared for retaliation. None was coming from the comatose Cloke. Still riled and not getting a response, Ó hAilpín kicked the prone Cloke up the arse. And that was that.

The event was filmed and televised on the news to huge Australian revulsion. The thing is, Aussies have no problem punching, gouging, pulling, dragging, or clothes-lining an opponent. 

That's all part of the game. Ó hAilpín's crime was that he kicked his man while he was the ground. That it was aimed only at Cloke's arse and that the player had bigger issues, like being unconscious, meant little to Aussie opinion.

No, it was seen as not fair dinkum in Aussie eyes so Ó hAilpín suffered a long suspension from the game and earned an unfair reputation as being a bit of a hard man. Not that this did him too much harm. It was Aussie Rules after all.

Liverpool's Craig Bellamy celebrates a goal against Barcelona in 2007 with his controversial golf swing just days after hitting teammate John Arne Riise with a golf club after a karaoke dispute.
Liverpool's Craig Bellamy celebrates a goal against Barcelona in 2007 with his controversial golf swing just days after hitting teammate John Arne Riise with a golf club after a karaoke dispute.

Craig Bellamy v John Arne Riise

One of the most memorable soccer fights between teammates due to the circumstances and the implement used in the perpetration of the dispute. Craig Bellamy was as skilful as he was temperamental and was renowned for his distractionary ways of driving opponents mad.

However, on this occasion, he turned his ire on a teammate, the seemingly docile Norwegian Jon Arne Riise whilst the pair were on a team bonding trip to Portugal with Liverpool before a crunch Champions League match against Barcelona in 2007. The whole thing started over a karaoke dispute at the team hotel when Bellamy demanded that Riise sing a song. Riise was not in the mood and declined which Bellamy was not having, pushing the issue on the Norwegian, until Riise forcibly told the Welshman where he could stuff his microphone before departing the hotel bar for his room.

After he left, Bellamy was not happy with the way he was spoken to in front of the rest of the team and spotted some gold-plated clubs in the lounge of their hotel, he grabbed one and let himself into Riise's room whereupon he struck the Scandinavian with the club across the legs to teach him some sort of weird Welsh lesson, thankfully not doing significant damage to Riise.

An unsightly affair to say the least, that many would consider might destroy team morale. Yet, amazingly both men would go on to score against Barcelona in a famous win at the Camp Nou, which was marked by Bellamy's goal celebration... a golf swing. Stay classy Craig.

West Ham's John Hartson kicks teammate Eyal Berkovic in the face after a training ground misunderstanding back in 1998.
West Ham's John Hartson kicks teammate Eyal Berkovic in the face after a training ground misunderstanding back in 1998.

John Hartson v Eyal Berkovic 

One of the most intense fights between teammates includes another Welshman, it has been over 20 years since John Hartson kicked Eyal Berkovic in the head at the West Ham training ground but it remains one of the most shocking incidents on the training ground.

It was caught on camera too, and as a result, Hartson has the dubious honour of becoming the first player to be charged with misconduct for a training ground altercation with a teammate.

The altercation began with a strong tackle from Hartson, which caused Berkovic to land heavily on the ground. Hartson offered him a hand and tried to help him to his feet, but Berkovic was not having any of it and swung a missed punch at his teammate in anger, a decision he immediately regretted.

What followed became sporting history for all the wrong reasons as Hartson aimed an exquisitely timed left-footed volley directly into Berkovic's mush laying the Israeli international out cold.

Hartson later said, "Even today it is the biggest regret of my career. I was 20 years of age. I was very boisterous, probably a little bit angry. I'd left Arsenal in 1997 and they went on to win the double in 1998. Eyal Berkovic was a good lad and to this day I don't know why I reacted the way I did. It was nothing personal against Eyal. It could have been any one of the players on the training ground that day."

Something the other players at the training ground to this day are forever grateful for.

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