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Antrim's O'Kane blasts Croker chiefs' handling of Christy Ring Cup confusion

By John Campbell

Antrim hurling team joint boss Gary O'Kane has slammed the Croke Park authorities for what he feels was their "inept handling" of the situation which arose in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's Christy Ring Cup final between the Saffrons and Meath.

O'Kane, who played in the 1989 All-Ireland final against Tipperary and has since gained considerable experience at management level, believes that the issue in relation to referee John O'Brien totting up the final score wrongly should never have got as far as the Central Competitions Control Committee ordering a replay.

The replay was fixed for Saturday night in Newry but the Meath County Board met last night and proposed that the game should be staged on Saturday week in the interests of player welfare.

The furore over the replay has caused deep frustration and annoyance within Antrim and O'Kane espouses this.

"I honestly believe that if this had been the Leinster or Munster Hurling final or the All-Ireland final, then the situation which evolved would not have happened," raps O'Kane. "Do you mean to tell me that there was not a referee's assessor in the stand? And do you think for one minute that the likes of Kilkenny would have been allowed to go up, take delivery of the cup, go home and celebrate and then be told to come back a few days later for a replay? Not a chance."

O'Kane makes the point that championship matches are particularly well policed by officials to prevent discrepancies such as that which happened at Croker on Saturday.

"You have a referee, two linesmen, four umpires, a fourth official seated on the touchline - I ask you, surely to God eight folk are enough to prevent untoward things happening? All teams train and work hard and while human error is understandable, the manner in which things like this are dealt with can leave a lot to be desired. I think there was inept handling in this case."

Meath have already indicated that they could be without key players for the replay and cited "player welfare" in their request to have the match played on Saturday week.

But Antrim are not looking beyond their own problems.

"We are just focused on ourselves," insists O'Kane. "We have our own worries. Martin Burke is out injured, there is a doubt about Ciaran Johnston and maybe another player.

"But you know what - we want that trophy and we also want to get into the Leinster Championship next year."

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