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Replay call is a sensible end to Christy Ring Cup controversy

By Declan Bogue

Published 08/06/2016

Happy: Antrim boss Terence McNaughton is delighted that the Christy Ring Cup final will be replayed
Happy: Antrim boss Terence McNaughton is delighted that the Christy Ring Cup final will be replayed

So, that's that then. There will be a Christy Ring Cup final replay this Saturday night in Newry, with the throw-in at 7pm.

"It's common sense," said Antrim manager Terence McNaughton. "The only result I wanted. Go again, all in."

The GAA released an unequivocal statement yesterday. It read: "Following consideration of the referee's report, it has been confirmed that the final score of the game was recorded incorrectly and that the game did finish in a draw (Antrim 1-20, Meath 2-17)."

The man in the street might find himself bemused at exactly how last Saturday's finale played out, with Meath celebrating a famous 'victory' over an acknowledged hurling power such as Antrim in Croke Park.

However, he would not be on his own. Reporters and commentators could see that the scoreboard was incorrect.

The Antrim management knew it too, with Gary O'Kane and Dominic McKinley approaching the linesman and making it clear that there had been some sort of mistake.

It's not as if Meath had tried to get away with it too, if it wasn't for those pesky TG4 kids. In the aftermath of this controversy, their selector, and former Antrim under-age player and Ulster Council hurling coach, Mickey McCullough, said: "It was brought to us that the score was wrong when we were on the line. We approached the linesman and said, 'we are hearing this from TG4 that the score is wrong. Is the score on the scoreboard correct?'

"He then radioed over to, I assume, the ref. And on his way back down towards us said, 'Yes, that score on the board is correct, TG4 is wrong'. We had asked the question and we had hoped the score was right. We had to play the game that was in front of us."

Asked if any members of the Meath set-up put it to the fourth official, who you might imagine would be keeping a tight eye on the administration end of the game, he answered: "No, to be fair, you are sort of caught up in the thing."

The GAA themselves were quick out of the blocks to correct things after the Cup had been handed over to Meath.

President Aogan Ó Fearghail stated: "I've said it before and I'll say it again, fairness is very important. And if it's found by the CCCC in the issue of fairness that the game ended in a draw, then they will act on that."

On Sunday night's edition of The Sunday Game, hurling analyst Anthony Daly had suggested the rather fanciful notion that A) Meath might be allowed to keep the trophy itself and B) that both sides might be permitted to take part in next year's Leinster round-robin tournament and, in effect, the Liam MacCarthy Cup - which, let's face it, was the main draw of this competition for Antrim.

Ó Fearghail was decisive on that too, bringing a bit of levity to it when he said: "That sounds nice at times and it's lovely to be nice to everyone and we would like to do that and I'm sure that's what people's instant reaction was, but we have to be fair and we also have to be honest."

And so we head to Newry for the second instalment. McCullough is among those who have suggested that Meath will have little appetite for a rematch. There are a couple of issues, one that some players are rumoured to be heading to America this week, and also that the county board were due to have a round of club hurling fixtures organised.

But think of it this way. Yesterday morning, the Belfast Telegraph took a call from a Louth woman, evidently still unhappy with Meath over how they 'won' the Leinster football Championship of 2010. Only this week, we read how their former forward Joe Sheridan used to receive hate mail to his house after his illegal 'goal' was allowed to stand, therefore robbing Louth of their first provincial title since 1957.

The least Meath can do, even from a public relations viewpoint, is just play the game. Down a few players? Get a few from the clubs, fill out your team and forget about any stance that involves taking the huff.

At the heart of all of this lies human error.

The scoreboard operator chalked down a point for Meath instead of Antrim. He took the point off Meath, but didn't add it to Antrim's score. That triggered a domino effect.

"At the end of the day, we have all made mistakes," added McNaughton.

By ordering the replay and playing the game, the GAA will have got themselves off the hook. But then again, it was the sensible thing to do. Sometimes, common sense comes as a surprise.

Belfast Telegraph

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