I have never hidden the fact that dubious refereeing and bad decisions by referees during games are pet hates of mine and make my blood boil. Before I attract the wrath of every ref in the county I must admit it is more so at a national level than within the county itself. There have not been many games I attended this year that I left thinking the man in the middle did a really good job.
Firstly, I admire people who take up refereeing as it quite literally is the most thankless job on the planet. Even the fairest decision during a game will annoy somebody. A referee has to be very thick skinned and have an ability to listen to a serious amount of codswallop; therefore I will never be a referee. The Connacht club final between Castlebar and St Brigid’s was an enthralling game to say the least but everyone that I spoke to afterwards about it mentioned the referee. Marty Duffy didn’t have one of his better games but I have to say his officials didn’t help him out either. St Brigid’s second point, scored by Cathal McHugh, was most definitely wide but the umpire raised the white flag and later in the half, at the opposite end, a shot by Neil Douglas was deemed over by the umpire but then overturned after serious remonstrations by Shane Curran. It was wide. Maybe if Ciaran Naughton was as boisterous as ‘Cake’ Curran he would have got Brigid’s second point overturned also. There were many more bizarre instances in this game, four players ended up getting red cards, Barry Moran’s red card was a yellow at best as his momentum took him into the tackle as Karl Mannion turned sharply, and if Moran had evaded that tackle his manager would have been fuming for not getting stuck in. I still have no idea why the third St Brigid’s players were sent off; it all seemed pretty harmless at the time. The last seconds of normal time in that game weren’t exactly Marty Duffy’s finest. Firstly a line ball decision was overturned and then he clearly blew the final whistle and signalled so but how could he — Castlebar were attacking and 35 metres from goal when Tom King got nailed by Ian Kilbride. It left everyone present in Hyde Park astonished and wondering what was happening. The delay was agonising. Eventually Castlebar got their free and Kilbride got a red card. Controversy has since followed. Barry Moran has rightfully had his red card rescinded, great news for Castlebar but even more controversial is the impending 48 week ban for Frankie Dolan, and 12 week ban for his brother Garvan for something that allegedly happened off the ball. Somebody needs to make a statement to the public to let us know what is going on.
Joe McQuillan didn’t win many Mayo fan’s after this years All- Ireland final. Without ever talking to Cillian O Connor about it, I could tell from the press box in Croke Park exactly what happened in the dying seconds. When O’Connor pointed that last gasp free I assured everyone listening on radio that there would be time for an equaliser. If a ref told me there was 30 seconds left in a game I would presume that’s 30 seconds of playing time; not if you’re from Mayo however. Pat McEnaney didn’t win many friends here after his unbelievable decision to red card Liam McHale (our best player ) and Colm Coyle (Meath’s worst player ) after the fracas during the 1996 All-Ireland final. Some absurd decisions down the years have cost some teams big time. Joe Sheridan throwing the ball into the net for Meath to rob Louth of a Leinster title a few years back springs to mind immediately. It was the umpire’s fault that time. May I make one thing clear here, I do not condone a referee being attacked and assaulted like Martin Sludden was after that game. They were appalling scenes in Croke Park.
Here lies the problem for me; look at the make up of some of the top refs in the country at the minute, Marty and Michael Duffy, Joe McQuillan, Maurice Deegan, Eddie Kinsella and Pat McEnaney to name but a few, and the common factor between them all is that they aren’t the most imposing human beings on the planet and when they get that bit of power while refereeing a game they like showing physically bigger men who the boss is. It’s a complete power issue.
Laugh if you like, but I have had first hand experience and couldn’t believe the verbal I got into with a top official and his umpire during a game, it was like they were trying their best to rise me (which wasn’t hard ). An opponent advised me to take no heed of them. Some inter county players have told of such instances where officials try to belittle them on the field as they know that they are the ones in control. A referee should be approachable during a game (like rugby ). If a team captain or team spokesman simply wants to query a certain decision made by an official then the ref should be made listen and then explain it to them. On a GAA pitch you’re simply told to shut it and you normally get penalised 15 metres for simply looking for clarification. Note to the men in black, it’s good to talk.