Referees chief hits out at overturning of red card decisions
A year which has seen a number of high-profile red card decisions has ended on a discordant note in Fermanagh where referees' secretary Harry Traynor has fired a curt broadside at his county board's Hearings Committee over its alleged "questionable rulings" on sending-offs.
Traynor claims that the committee's record on overturning decisions this year has left refs "questioning why they bother to apply the rules at all".
In his annual report, Traynor maintains that discipline "continues to be very poor towards officials, and I again ask the CCC to take note with these players and management without fear or favour".
And he goes on: "I cannot pass this aspect without a swipe at the Hearings Committee, who yet again in 2013 have demonstrated very questionable rulings that leave referees questioning why they bother to apply the rules at all."
Traynor adds: "We are all too aware of specifics involving our most senior referee in recent months."
This was a reference to the Hearings Committee's controversial decision to rescind red cards handed out to key Roslea forwards Seamus and Sean Quigley in a Fermanagh Senior League semi-final against Devenish.
Seamus Quigley was sent off for alleged verbal abuse of referee Martin Higgins, while Sean Quigley was dismissed for alleged striking.
Both decisions were overturned and this meant that the players were free to play against Cavan champions Ballinagh in an important Ulster club quarter-final championship match.
This was just one of several instances this year in which players were cleared in time to fulfil important fixtures with their clubs or counties and the issue has raised hackles throughout the Association.
Earlier in the year, long-serving Tyrone defender Conor Gormley was able to line out in the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo after having a proposed one-match suspension overturned.
Gormley had been handed the retrospective ban arising from an incident in Tyrone's quarter-final win over Monaghan.
But Martin Penrose, who also received a red card, missed out on the semi-final, remaining suspended as his request for an appeal hearing was not submitted within the specified period.
Then just last Sunday Kevin McGuckin was able to line out with Ballinderry in the Ulster club final against Glenswilly despite having been dismissed in the early stages of his team's semi-final win over Kilcoo.
McGuckin was red-carded for an apparent strike on an opponent but his card was rescinded on appeal and he was cleared to share in his team's march into the All-Ireland quarter-final against Kingdom Kerry Gaels on Sunday week.
Indeed, the ramifications of red cards and the divisions they create within counties have been amplified this term – and Fermanagh is no exception to this, it would seem.
County secretary Tom Boyle does not appear to share Traynor's trenchant views since he actually compliments the Hearings Committee in his own annual report.
Boyle suggests that "discipline has improved markedly compared to the past two years".
The raft of successful appeals against red cards, some of which generated considerable surprise within the Association, has been a factor in the introduction of the black card disciplinary measure which will be implemented from January 1.
And this is one of the reasons why the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup competition will trigger considerable interest with referees likely to be very much the centre of attention as the GAA steps up its bid to achieve consistency and fairness in the application of justice.
The competition gets under way next month.