Extra Time

Opening Shot – Referees have a lot to answer for

Eddie Kinsella sends Crossmaglen's Paul McKeown off during the All-Ireland Club semi-final

Eddie Kinsella sends Crossmaglen’s Paul McKeown off during the All-Ireland Club semi-final

By John Hughes

YOU have to admire Oisin McConville. It must have been difficult to keep a lid on his feelings after Crossmaglen lost out to Castlebar, but then McConville has always been a bit of class.

I, however, don’t have any potential hostages to fortune to consider, so I’m going to be a bit more plain about what unfolded in Breffni Park last Saturday.

Let’s call it straight. Cross were done out of an All-Ireland final place by a poor refereeing performance from Eddie Kinsella. Simple as that.

We’re used to the ragdoll treatment that Jamie Clarke gets at this stage, and the fact that he gets no protection whatsoever is just something that we seem to have to accept.

However, even setting that ongoing mystery to one side, it was an awful performance from the Laois official.

I monitor free counts week in and week out as part of my match reports. For a side to be conceding 30 frees, as Crossmaglen did in this game, is an extraordinary tally.

Having watched the game I’m at a loss as to how the Ulster champions could possibly have racked up such a malformed tally.

Part of the ‘problem’ is the rangey game Crossmaglen play. The Armagh men persisted with their direct style of football against Castlebar.

Time after time we would see the ball turned over in the Rangers defence, a couple of rapid hand passes and then a long raking direct ball into the front third.

And time after time we would see a referee a long way from the action awarding frees out for the Castlebar men. Taking the easy option where he wasn’t sure who was the sinned against and who was sinner.

Towards the end it started to verge on the absurd. We watched as Rico Kelly hared towards the Mayo posts only to have a Castlebar defender literally grabbing him by the scruff of the neck to impede his progress.

The whistle went, a free in surely? Incredibly not, and the Mitchel’s were off the hook at a crucial point in the semi-final.

The sideline melee which erupted in the concluding stages of the game was evidence of a Castlebar side emboldened and confident that they could push up to and over the edge without undue fear of repercussions.

This was a game that the Connacht side won by a single point. People can talk about swings and roundabouts all they want, but that’s just bull in a situation like this.

In a match where the referee’s decisions so heavily favour one side over the other and where there is so little between the teams, it is bound to influence the outcome of the game.

Some have made the case that Cross have had their fair share of decisions swing in the favour in the past two decades. My answer to that is so what?

Referees are not some mystic conduit for interstellar karma and even offering that sort of argument is borderline barmy.

In a game as important as an All-Ireland semi-final Crossmaglen were entitled to believe they’d get a fair crack of the whip.

That didn’t happen, and now all we can do is hope there’s some truth in that hoary old adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

Fionnuala Carr is frusrated with the implementation of the rules within the GAA.


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW