I met a man last Sunday evening and he asked me two questions. Firstly he asked me if I knew why do we bury referees 50 feet under? I hadn’t a clue but his reply was that deep down they’re really nice people! He then asked me what was the difference between a referee and a battery. Again not knowing the answer he informed me that a battery has a positive side.
You’ve probably guessed at this stage that the man in question was from Castledaly and, like most people from that parish, had little good to say about the men in black last Sunday evening. Having watched his side claw their way back into contention at the break, despite a slow start against the reigning county champions, and then go on to dominate much of the second half proceedings, his anger was palpable at a litany of bizarre refereeing decisions in the final quarter which, at best postponed and at worst cost his club a place in this year’s county final.
Now I do know the referee in question and can honestly say that he is one of the better referees in the county. He normally refs in a free-flowing, common sense style and is rarely if ever involved in controversy. Indeed, I think he did a very good job on the game in question until the crucial final quarter, when every important decision seemed to go in Tyrrellspass’ favour. While I would hope that this was by accident rather than by design, there is a strong case for those that would claim he was playing for a draw. Aside from awarding a free in to Castledaly instead of letting what looked a perfectly good goal stand, and awarding two or three frees of a very soft nature to Pat Flanagans men, perhaps his biggest booboo was playing nearly five minutes of injury time when three had been announced. When Denis Glennon missed from a 45 yard free with the three minutes up it looked like curtains for the men from the Tidy Town, but still they played on. Martin Flanagan was next up and he too was short from 45 yards but the break fell to David Glennon who fired over the all-important equaliser with close to five minutes of injury time on the clock. From the kickout the final whistle sounded, meaning both sides live to fight another day.
Now I’m not in the business of referee bashing just for the sake of it and, on this occasion I cannot be accused of being biased. In fact, on the contrary, I feel that complaining about the standard of refereeing is a bit like talking down the economy, in that it will eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, George Lee was bound to be right at some stage. Likewise if we constantly complain to and about referees, something which is endemic in the GAA at present, then we will get fewer and fewer taking up the whistle which will further diminish the standard of refereeing. On top of that I recognise the vital role the men in black play in the organisation. Without their services and dedication we wouldn’t have a club championship. They are also human and just like every player are capable of having a bad day at the office. Yet this latest controversy got me thinking, and with all that said, I do feel that even though we have some excellent referees in Westmeath a lot needs to be done to improve the overall standard of refereeing. This is true in neighbouring counties too from what I hear. There are a few Freddie Macs and Fannie Maes who are threatening to bring down the overall credibility of the championship.
Just like in the case of our current financial woes, the solution is not so straightforward and is open to opinion. Perhaps finance is part of the solution. By offering increased and worthwhile expenses it might encourage more young people to take up the whistle and in doing so improve the refereeing pool in the county. We could spend our way out of the crisis so to speak. Alternatively we could do what the Government have being doing for the past 12 months and deny there is any problem brewing and carry on regardless. As they have found out however in the last few weeks, this approach will only last so long. Eventually something will have to give.
Now that I have that off my chest it’s back to the more immediate matter of the replay which is fixed for Pairc Chiaran this Saturday at 4.30pm. Many will feel that Castledaly might have missed the boat and that this might have been the wake-up call that Tyrrellspass needed. While that may well yet prove to be the case, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Padraig Farrell’s men. They have already beaten the reigning champions in both league and championship and will be hurt by last week’s result. They are a more experienced outfit than when beaten in the county final replay in 2005 and are therefore less likely to capitulate. If they stick to the gameplan like last week, then they are in with a great chance of making it through to the final. With that said, Tyrrellspass have not won two in a row for nothing and are open to improvement. In short, this has the makings of a thrilling encounter, with only a point or two to separate them at the end.
Senior football relegation final
Bunbrosna and St Malachys go head to head in Shandonagh on Sunday morning to decide who will lose their senior status, after both finished bottom of their respective groups. It’s a dog eat dog encounter but Bunbrosna would appear to be in a better position to maintain their senior status.
Senior hurling county final
Near neighbours Clonkill and Raharney contest this year’s county senior hurling final on Sunday. Both sides have a host of county players in their ranks. Raharney needed a replay to see off the challenge of St Oliver Plunketts last weekend. Clonkill are unbeaten in this year’s championship and while Raharney will put it up to them I expect the reigning champions to keep their record intact.
Intermediate football semi-finals
It’s semi-final time in the Westmeath intermediate football championship, with two mouthwatering clashes down for decision this weekend. On Saturday in Pairc Chiaran at 3pm near neighbours Tubberclare and Maryland are down to do battle. Both sides would desperately love to regain senior status. Although Tubberclare will be without the talented Ian Coffey, the return of Fergal Wilson might just be enough to swing this tie in their favour against an injury-hit Maryland.
On Sunday in Lakepoint Park at 5pm high-scoring Ballynacaragy take on Castletown/ Finea/ Coole/ Whitehall. CFCW showed their worth when lowering the Maryland colours in their last outing but Bal seem to hitting form at the right time and would appear to have the scoring power to secure a final spot.