Two Ulster referees — Martin Sludden and Pat McEnaney — who were subjected to fierce criticism following controversial decisions in major championship matches this year, will follow the progress of a proposal put into the public domain by recently-retired whistler John Bannon.
Sludden’s decision to allow a Meath ‘goal’ in the Leinster football final against Louth when Joe Sheridan had clearly thrown the ball over the Royals’ line and McEnaney’s green light for a Down goal against Kildare even though Benny Coulter was obviously in the small square before receiving the ball, created public uproar.
The GAA was left with considerable egg on its face as television replays highlighted the refereeing discrepancies, but no further action was taken in either case.
Now Bannon, no stranger to controversy himself during a lengthy career, has persuaded his club Legan Sarsfields to table a motion at the Longford Convention calling on the Central Competitions Control Committee to accept responsibility for action after decisions have been viewed by them on television or on video.
Under the existing rule, the CCCC can ask referees to ‘revisit’ controversial decisions after games have taken place.
During the 2009 Tyrone v Cork All Ireland football semi-final Bannon issued a yellow card to Cork defender John Miskella, even though he clearly struck Red Hands forward Brian McGuigan — an offence that should have earned an automatic red card.
Bannon was subsequently requested by the CCCC to study footage of the incident to clarify if it had been dealt with adequately, but decided not to upgrade the yellow card to a red thus meaning that Miskella was free to play in the All Ireland final against Kerry.
A motion urging the CCCC to assume full responsibility for taking action on controversial refereeing decisions failed at Congress this year, but Bannon is battling on — and it would appear he has the support of many within the Association, particularly in Ulster.
“If the CCCC send you a video of a game to review a decision you have made, let’s be honest — 99 times out of 100 they want you to change a yellow card to a red card. I think the CCC itself should take full responsibility for this,” insists Bannon.
One leading Ulster referee said: “I think the Central Competitions Control Committee should take the initiative here.”