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GAA chief gives Joe Brolly a red card for negativity

By Declan Bogue

GAA President Aogan O'Fearghail has defended referee Maurice Deegan after controversial RTÉ pundit Joe Brolly said: "He did something to Tyrone which normally happens between consenting adults" in reference to how he handled the Red Hands' All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kerry.

O'Fearghail was present at the game and did not see the RTÉ coverage, but explained: "I think in real time, sitting and watching it, the referee had a good game.

"In general, refereeing has been good and overall I think the referee did a good job. And what individuals think afterwards, I can't control that."

The Cavan man was at Croke Park for the publication of 'Play to Stay with the GAA', a study carried out by Stirling University about drop-out rates of children in sport.

He also addressed his discomfort with the general tone of coverage of Gaelic football, after how the Tyrone versus Monaghan quarter-final was dealt with.

"I think some of the Sunday Game commentary is unfair but at this stage it's predictable and, in fairness, it's consistent in its negativity," he said.

Directly referencing Colm O'Rourke's line about a 'bad smell' following Tyrone, he continued: "It's tiresome, I find, when people talk about smells or nastiness or anything like that. I just find that unhelpful in our sport.

"I like analysis where people say something wrong and where they point out that something could be improved and there's nothing wrong with that but using that type of language is not something I like."

The President went as far as to say that the brand of analysis offered up is "discrediting of the people themselves" while he said he could understand the anger felt in Tyrone about coverage of their season, which Mickey Harte labelled "articulate drivel" after Sunday's defeat.

"I can understand why Tyrone feel, in general, a little aggrieved because I would share that. I feel myself as an Ulsterman, at times, Ulster counties and Tyrone do feel that they get a particularly negative criticism so I would share that," he said.

However, O'Fearghail stopped short of acquiescing over the question of an anti-Ulster agenda at play when it comes to media coverage south of the border.

"I'm not sure of that. There are people who would feel that in Tyrone but there are others who wouldn't," he stated.

"New kids on the block do sometimes get criticism. I've been coming to All-Irelands since 1973 and Ulster counties generally came down and got well beaten and I was even in - though I shouldn't have been - dressing rooms where people would say, 'Well done lads, you are doing a great job up there, we know how hard it is and keep it up'.

"That was unfortunate, but now that they've started to do well, then there's a little bit of an edge to some commentary."

Sunday's game gave another couple of examples of failures of how to implement the black card, with Tyrone's Ronan McNamee ordered off for a challenge that should have been ruled as a yellow, while Kerry's Shane Enright was punished with a yellow card for a blatant trip on Peter Harte. O'Fearghail insists that the key to getting consistency is constant training of referees.

"I think the whole education and training of referees is improving. But it has to continue to improve," he said.

"And it is unfortunate that calls are wrong. Referees will admit that themselves. If they do get a call wrong, they know it themselves.

"It will happen. There's no point in pretending that a referee gets 100 per cent of things right. They will make mistakes and it's unfortunate when it happens, for the players particularly."

Pressed whether he believes the introduction of the black card has made the job of a referee more difficult, O'Fearghail responded: "In the overall context, you have to examine if you are better off with something or without it. And I think in the overall context of refereeing, the black card is a good tool for the referee to have.

"Used well and used effectively, it has improved our game."

In the aftermath of the Tiernan McCann 'Rufflegate' episode, the Drumgoon clubman said he anticipates a review of the punishment for diving.

"I will be reviewing all our committees at the end of our playing season. I've told our chairmen that at the end of the playing season I intend to review with them what they have been doing and working on," he said. "If a chair of any committee isn't reviewing what's happening I would never be comfortable."

Brolly declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

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