Last weekend I went to a few matches in the Galway senior football championship.
The only consistency in the games that I observed, was the absolute inconsistency in the referring between games, the softness of some of the frees being given, and the poor standard of club football in the county.
Anyone who has been watching inter-county football over the past decade or more will surely be aware of how the Tribesmen have drastically slipped back down the football rankings.
From top of the pile in 2001, to not having won a senior provincial title since 2008, or even more shockingly, a provincial minor title since 2007.
Watching the dire standard of refereeing at club level in the county last weekend convinced me that poor quality refereeing is also a factor in Galway, or any other county’s demise.
In the Corofin (managed by Mayo’s Stephen Rochford ) and Mountbellew/Moylough (managed by former Galway star Val Daly ) - there were 48 frees.
And there was not an ounce of genuine physicality, or a puff of a dust-up, in the entire match.
In fact there was not a single really big shoulder or anything that could be considered really dirty play, apart from one blatant hand-trip as a forward ripped in on goal; however, the referee must have left his black card at home on the kitchen table.
Corofin are odds on favourites already to retain the Galway county title and they won in a canter, by 3-14 to 0-10, which begs the question, why was there a need to blow a free for almost every minute of the tie?
Some of the frees given in the games I watched would not normally be given in a game of rounders, never mind a senior club championship game.
In the Cortoon Shamrocks (Derek Savage’s club ) and St James (Paul Conroy’s club ) match, some of the frees were totally unfathomable and left players on both sides extremely frustrated.
The worse one in the entire game was when Savage, who was an All-Star in 2000, powered past a St. James defender and was whistled up and subsequently booked, for what the referee appeared to consider a case of being overly aggressive and physical on the ball.
It was neither.
I am not advocating overly tough play, however, when frees are being given out willy-nilly at club games and for any kind of physically strong play, it does not help the mindset of the county player , or the county team as a unit either.
Is it any wonder that the Galway county players are blown away - as Mayo did to them last year - when they get into a physical battle.
They are too used to being mollycoddled and playing in a soft and largely uncompetitive domestic championship, and then when they are put out into the big bad world facing the likes of Donegal, Mayo, Kerry, Tyrone, Meath, Cork, or Dublin (perish the thought ) - they are not even remotely able for the step up in class and physicality.