Who appointed Liam Devenney for the Connacht club final?

Considering the referee’s display last weekend in the Connacht club final in Kiltoom, a satirical joke is an appropriate way to start this week’s column.

Paddy and Mick get a pilot to fly them to Canada to hunt moose.

They manage to bag six moose.

But, as they’re loading the plane, the pilot says he can only carry four moose.

The two lads object strongly. “Last year we got six. The pilot let us take them all, and he had the same plane as yours.”

Reluctantly, the pilot gives in and all six moose are loaded.

However, on take-off the little plane can’t handle the load, crashing into wilderness.

Somehow, miraculously, only Paddy and Mick survive the crash.

Paddy asks Mick, “Any idea where we are?”

Mick replies; “I think we’re pretty close to where we crashed last year.”

Who appointed Liam Devenney for the Connacht club final?

Who can stand over the abomination of refereeing that occurred last Sunday?

It was shocking stuff. And if you don’t believe how scandalous it was, or you think this is sour grapes, do yourself a favour and log onto TG4.ie and just watch the first 20 minutes of action.

Any reasonably objective football person can make up his/her own mind. One thing that jumped out at me was that after 11 minutes of play, St Brigid’s had been awarded eight frees, and Corofin had none.

The referee must take some of the criticism for his performance and, if he had been a player on either of the teams, he would have been subbed after 15 minutes.

Ballina’s Liam Devenney should NEVER have been appointed to take control of such an important game as last weekend’s Connacht club final.

According to his e scant referee profile in the match programme, the biggest game he had refereed before this fixture, which had about 3,500 and was live on TV, was the Connacht intermediate semi-final between Kilconly and Padraig Pearses.

Appointing an inexperienced referee as Devenney to do such a high-octane game was asking for trouble and when the Connacht Council does its imminent investigation into what went on after the game, the first question it should ask itself is: why it gave the job to Devenney and allocated side-line responsibilities to those with far more experience?

It was like asking the air stewardess to fly the 747, and telling the pilot to take care of the passengers.

Surely either Marty or Michael Duffy from Sligo, who are experienced inter-county referees, would have been a more logical choice. Or, why did the Connacht Council not go outside the province and bring in an experienced referee?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Of course young referees have to cut their teeth somewhere, but do not create a scenario whereby the odds will be stacked against them. That does not develop capacity. It just frightens them off.

Considering the history between the two sides involved – in 2006 a St Brigid’s player took a swing at a Corofin selector – and Corofin lost by a point. The fact that it was the biggest club game in the province for five years and was a home game for the Roscommon champions, it was farcical to appoint the Ballina man.

As an aside, and it was a Mayo man who mentioned this to me during the week, selecting a referee from Ballina Stephenites, considering what happened back in1998 between Corofin and Ballina was also folly.

This is not to disparage the referee, but rather refers to the optics of the process.

Not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done.

It was not acceptable to verbally abuse the referee.

I stand over my comments that were well documented during the week that the behaviour of a minority of the Corofin supporters after the game was totally unacceptable and did not reflect well on the club they represent.

Supporters should not engage with a referee verbally or physically in a negative way after any game. Those who did last Sunday will agree with me today that they were wrong to do so regardless of the provocation they had endured.

Unfortunately such incidents are all too common in the GAA at all levels. It needs to be stamped out.

I am not excusing what happened after the game last Sunday for one moment.

However players who have trained more than 120 times since last January, some who have given up career opportunities, overtime, family events, and travel opportunities, should not be treated as they were last weekend.

Nobody minds being defeated on the field of play.

It happens every Sunday and is the nature of sport. All that players would ever ask is that they get fair play.

The essence of sport is that individuals and teams compete against each other. The referee should be there to facilitate that happening in a fair and sporting way. What happened last weekend was anything but that.

All the best to St Brigid’s and hopefully they can go on and become the first Roscommon club to bring the Andy Merrigan across the Shannon.

However whoever put Liam Devenney into the unfair position in which he found himself last Sunday, ambushed, like a lamb to the slaughter, I say you have let the association in this province down.

That decision was the catalyst to what happened last Sunday in Kiltoom.

You know it. And so do we.


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