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We must kick costly referee errors into touch

By Declan Bogue

Published 08/07/2015

Outcry: Cork surround Paudie Hughes after Kerry are given a pivotal penalty in the Munster final
Outcry: Cork surround Paudie Hughes after Kerry are given a pivotal penalty in the Munster final

It was a pity the Munster final had to end like that. Cork were so close to sticking it to Kerry and the know-alls only for one of those inspired moments of genius, when a corner back swings it over from 45 yards.

Their critics, of which there were many, are nonetheless exposed today for their haughty misjudgments.

Still, they should have the Munster football Championship on Leeside today, but were denied by referee Paudie Hughes' crazy decision to award a penalty when Mark Collins, in possession of the ball and facing away from James O'Donoghue, was adjudged to have fouled in the small square.

Hughes then went to have a chat with his umpires. Presumably to ask where they might stop later up the road for spuds, because the damage was already done and the 'chat' was mere window-dressing.

If this season is teaching us a lesson, it is the need for a Television Match Official in Gaelic Games. Already, the big screen in Croke Park has influenced key decisions, so why not roll it out across all inter-county Championship matches?

More assistance might ultimately lead to the desire of refereeing decisions not dominating the post-mortems. Right now, there are too many examples.

A few weeks ago, Down's Championship ended when defender Conaill McGovern was sent off after throwing a hand behind his back, brushing the face of Derry's Enda Lynn, who subsequently went down clutching his face.

There can be no doubt that some games in Ulster are treated differently by referees. Ulster's reputation goes before it, so therefore otherwise impressive referees like Eddie Kinsella can become card-happy when they head north.

That's not to single out Lynn, either. Anyone watching the Munster final will have cringed at how Kerry's O'Donoghue - the reigning Player of the Year - went down holding his face after James Loughrey and Paul Kerrigan had stripped him of the ball without even coming close to laying a finger any higher than his midriff.

These instances always have an element of karma about them. Down have benefited from play acting in the past when Conor Laverty went down as if he had been shot when Fermanagh's Daryl Keenan gave him a tap on the stomach in the 2012 Championship, resulting in a red card for the latter.

On Sunday, current Erne manager Pete McGrath was asked if the lesser lights of the Championship are subjected to rough justice, following the Central Hearings Committee's refusal to overturn Ryan McCluskey's suspension in midweek.

He referenced McGovern's sending-off in his response, stating: "For a player to get sent off for brushing another player's face with his hand, it's Championship football.

"There's nine months' work on the line and human nature being what it is you're going to get a bit of over-exuberance. But sending players off and looking at evidence and then upholding? I think they've got to look at that."

It brought to mind former Kildare defender Andriú MacLochlainn's quote to referee Cormac Reilly when he whistled for a ludicrous free against Dublin in the 2011 Leinster semi-final: "I walked off the pitch with him after the game. People asked me did I abuse him but in all honesty, I never even cursed at him. Not once.

"What I said to him was, 'I don't think you understand the gravity of your decision. My family are here and what they've given up for me is frightening.

"'When you go home and watch the game, you'll see that you made a wrong decision. I'd appreciate a call or a text just to say I got it wrong'."

Of course referees are human and will make mistakes. But they are also up against the rise of simulation in the game.

Appealing for the opposition to be booked or sent off is now commonplace, as is manufactured wrestling matches and feigned outrage.

A blatant example of exactly this came in the Ulster preliminary round.

At one stage, Donegal's Neil Gallagher and Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh were wrestling. Cavanagh had torn Gallagher's jersey and their blood was up.

Joe McQuillan sanctioned the ultimate cop-out - a yellow for both men.

Had he the benefit of a TMO, he would have clearly picked up the television angle showing Gallagher coming from behind Cavanagh and grabbing his fingers.

What was he doing that for? The public can make their own minds up, but it was clear that he instigated the eventual yellow card for the Red Hands captain.

Shortly afterwards, Cavanagh committed a foul and was sent off. Perhaps the game might have had a different outcome if he remained on the field, Tyrone at a numerical advantage. Or maybe not.

Either way, at least he would have been granted justice by a quick check with a Television Match Official.

Belfast Telegraph

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