Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy has called for an end to what he refers to as “the finger-pointing” which has blighted the provincial football championship to date.
Murphy believes that the on-going criticism of referees coupled with what he feels is an undue emphasis on negative passages of play is portraying the competition in an unflattering light.
“There appears to be a preoccupation with slamming aspects of the playing rules but it is worth pointing out that the experimental rules which were adopted at Congress were not voted in by people from Croke Park or from any other individual constituent body within the GAA — they were in fact adopted because the votes cast at Congress by county board delegates reflected the feelings of the rank and file membership throughout the country,” insists Murphy.
And in making a robust response to the controversy which appears to have been sparked by the introduction of the handpass rule in particular, Murphy says:
“How many times were handpass infringements blown up by referee Pat McEnaney in the Antrim v Tyrone game last Sunday? Very few, I would suggest.
“In fact, I would make the point that there were probably a lot more handpass fouls last year in the Championship even before the experimental rules had come into the equation at all.”
With referees coming under increasing fire in all four provinces, Murphy makes a renewed plea for more tolerance and respect for the men in the middle.
“I honestly think that referees to date have got the vast majority of their calls right in the Championship,” he said. “They are there to apply the rules as they are currently framed and while there will always be some contentious decisions in any match at any level, particularly in the white heat of a Championship tie, I am of the opinion that by and large our referees are applying rules properly.
“The referees are being assessed and there are only 18 of them to take charge of all Championship matches in the country as a whole
this year so they are certainly striving to be the best they can.”
His defence of the whistlers has already been endorsed by National Referees Committee chairman Mick Curley but Murphy is also concerned with media barbs fired at ‘negative’ Ulster Championship play to date.
“There was criticism of the Derry v Armagh game but I thought the 15–minute spells either side of half-time in that game produced some quality play,” said Murphy.
“And the second-half of the Antrim v Tyrone clash last Sunday was very exciting and particularly skilful.
“At this stage of the year all any team wants to achieve is their passage into the next round and sometimes in these circumstances maybe the standard of football is not for the total purist. The better standard of play tends to come later in the summer and certainly in September.
“But the finger-pointing at referees and players is certainly not helping to enhance the image of the GAA.”
With tomorrow’s Down v Donegal tie expected to attract a huge crowd to Ballybofey, Murphy is confident the Ulster Championship will provide some top-class fare between now and the final on July 18.
“We have some very tasty matches in prospect,” he adds.