Meath 1-12 Louth 1-10: The GAA authorities may conduct a detailed investigation into the disgraceful incidents that marred the end of yesterday’s Leinster football final between Meath and Louth at Croke Park but no decision on any course of action will be taken until the report of referee Martin Sludden has been thoroughly studied.
Sludden’s report is expected to be submitted to Headquarters tomorrow and its contents will determine what action — if any — the Association take in the wake of the mayhem that ensued after Meath’s Joe Sheridan appeared to throw the ball into the Louth net deep in injury-time to give Meath a 1-12 to 1-10 victory just when Louth were on the cusp of their first Leinster title in 53 years.
Sludden was attacked by irate Louth fans after the game while Meath player Mark Ward was struck by a man from the crowd wearing a Louth replica jersey.
Last night Tyrone-based Seamus Woods, who is a member of the three-man National Referees Appointments Committee — the others are Seamus Gardiner (Clare) and Mick Curley (Galway) — confirmed that “proper procedures” will be followed. “It is normal practice for referees to submit their reports on all major league and championship matches as quickly as possible after games have taken place and, depending on their contents, further action whether this be in relation to the adherence of match regulations or disciplinary issues may then be taken by the appropriate committee,” revealed Woods.
Sludden is one of the 18 high-profile referees who are on the rota for Championship matches this summer — indeed, he took charge of the recent Armagh v Monaghan Ulster final match at Casement Park, Belfast, in which his decision to show a red card to Armagh’s Brian Mallon caused some controversy.
But his performance at Croke Park yesterday up until the injury-time calamity had in fact been enthusiastically hailed by the normally caustic RTE punditry duo of Tony Davis and Pat Spillane.
Peter Fitzapatrick’s Louth management team includes three Ulster-based personnel. Former Armagh player Martin McQuillan is coach, ex-Armagh manager Peter McDonnell is currently helping with tactics and former Donegal and Ulster Railway Cup team boss Brian McEniff is an advisor.
And Fitzpatrick himself, who has transformed Louth since succeeding Eamon McEnaney was enraged that Sheridan’s goal was allowed to stand.
“I honestly thought that Joe Sheridan was Dick Turpin without the mask,” he fumed.
“I could not believe it when the referee allowed the goal to stand. It was pure daylight robbery. He invited me in afterwards to explain his decision and I asked him why he allowed the goal. He said he was going to give a penalty and I told him he should have gone ahead and done this.
“It makes me sick to see the disciplinary body chasing up on guys who get yellow and red cards and then something like this happens.”
Indeed, the post-match events at Croke Park tended to overshadow the draw for the third round of the All Ireland Football Qualifiers at which GAA President Christy Cooney was asked about the Croke Park incidents.
“This is a matter that will be dealt with in the appropriate manner but obviously it is something that we could be doing without,” he said.
Louth followers have already been vociferous in their quest for a re-fixture but it has been confirmed that there is no remit in the Official Guide to permit this although it could, of course, happen with the agreement of both teams.