Knockmore will face Roscommon champions Padraic Pearses in the Connacht senior club final on January 9 after the Roscommon outfit overcame Galway champions Mountbellew Moylough in a very fiery contest that ended in the most controversial circumstances.
The incidents at the end were unsavoury and unsightly as Mayo Referee Jerome Henry got surrounded, shoved and harassed by a very irate Mountbellew/Moylough team, who felt a few decisions at the end cost them a place in the final.
Their dismay centred around Henry’s failure to award what looked like a perfectly good mark for Mountbellew/Moylough and thereafter, what looked like a certain free that would surely have won the game for the Galway champions; but instead, from the resulting passage of play, Padraic Pearses raced up the field to score a late late winner.
As much as I feel for Mountbellew/Moylough as players, actions that were taken after the final whistle cannot be condoned when a referee is set upon like that. It must have been fairly frightening for Henry when he was surrounded by a mass of players, all vigorously remonstrating and berating him.
There is not a player in the country that hasn't been on the receiving end of losing a match because of a bad decision or two by a referee. The problem here is, the magnitude of the game makes it all the harder to take as, I'm sure, Mountbellew Moylough, after winning their first county title in 35 years, had aspirations of being Connacht champions - especially after beating Corofin in the Galway final. They justifiably felt a bad call had cost them dearly.
Some refereeing decisions are hard to take, especially wrong ones that go against you. I've been in that place more than once, the 96 All-Ireland final springs to mind immediately, where, let's say, a few calls didn't exactly suit us; but Charlestown Sarsfield's All-Ireland senior semi final against Nemo Rangers in 2002 certainly ranks as the game where I felt an official absolutely cost our club a place in a first ever an All-Ireland final. I was incensed at the final whistle, knowing I would probably never get the chance to play in the club showpiece on St Patrick's day again; we lost the game 0-9 to 0-7 to Nemo rangers of Cork. If we were hammered, it wouldn't have bothered me as much.
Colin Corkey scored all of Nemos's points that day. We had chances to win it, which hurts more, but the fact we played most of the second half with 14 men - after Enda Casey was sent off for literally two very dubious yellow cards - was the reason for my anger.
Our influential full forward Ollie Conway also had to go off after losing his front teeth in a nasty, but accidental clash; but for me, the reason we lost was because the ref got it all wrong with the issuing of the two yellow and subsequent red card. From memory, which may be selective, I didn't go near or after the ref when the final whistle was blown but I do know the interview I did on TG4, which was recorded after the game, was never aired; I wonder why?
It's times like last Sunday with the game in the melting pot, when a referee is under the most serious pressure, that they may require assistance with a decision; a second ref, video assistance, whatever it takes, to make sure the correct decision is made. Had video evidence been used and the game brought back to award the mark to Mounbellew/Moylough and they scored it, Padraic Pearses couldn't have one complaint and there wouldn't have been a word about it all week.
Refs are only human and are prone to mistakes, just like players. The constant rule changes can't make it any easier for them. There is far too much for one person to watch and keep an eye on. It's just a disaster when the decision goes against your team.
Three All-Stars for our lads
Congrats to Mayo's three All-Star winners who all thoroughly deserved their awards. First-time winners Matthew Ruane and Ryan O'Donoghue were included on the team with five-time winner Lee Keegan. Winning five All-Stars is a remarkable achievement by anyone’s standards. Keegan now stands alone as Mayo's only winner of five All-Stars, having surpassed former team mates, Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle, who both have four.
Stephen Coen and Paddy Durkin can consider themselves unlucky but Tyrone's dominance in that sector meant they scooped all the awards across the half back line. Tommy Conroy too will be disappointed not to be included after a stellar year. There is always controversy when the teams are picked. David Clifford's selection baffled many as he didn't have a good championship by his standards, although he had a very good semi final against champions Tyrone, before he had to go off injured.
Limerick's dominance of the hurling world shone through as they claimed a record 12 players on this year's team. Truth be told, if the 15 Limerick players were picked, you couldn't have many arguments. Its a first time ever that an All-Ireland finalist (Cork ) haven't one representative on this year's team. Could you imagine if that happened Mayo in the football team? Uproar no doubt.
I'd like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a very prosperous 2022. See you all in the Dome in January.