Austin Gleeson to get green light for final as ref makes no issue over helmet tug

There were strong indications last night that Austin Gleeson has escaped sanction and will be free to play in next month’s All-Ireland final.

The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) had sought clarification from the referee in relation to the first-half incident in which Gleeson pulled Luke Meade’s helmet off his head. The Irish Examiner understands James Owens informed the body that he was satisfied with how he officiated the game.

Owens did send off Waterford’s Conor Gleeson along with Cork’s Patrick Horgan in the closing stages and defender Gleeson is set to miss the September 3 decider with Galway, having been proposed a one-match ban by the CCCC.

Horgan is also in line to miss Cork’s first league game in 2018. It had been believed the Glen Rovers man was sent off by mistake, as Shane Kingston had clearly struck Gleeson.

However, linesman James McGrath informed Owens that Horgan had firstly transgressed against Gleeson, a claim backed up by video evidence.

Waterford have suggested they will contest Conor Gleeson’s suspension, but there will be some relief that Austin, his namesake and 2016 hurler and young hurler of the year, seems to have avoided a penalty.

The decision comes as Gleeson’s team-mate Philip Mahony claimed Owens had addressed the matter at the time.

“Obviously, Conor is going to be a massive loss,” he said. “The one with Austin, it
happened right beside me and the referee, I’m fairly sure, told Luke Meade to put back on his straps. Some of the lads might say it looks worse slowed down, but I was right beside it and there was nothing in it.

“Because there was so much controversy over Adrian Tuohy and obviously Tadhg’s [de Búrca], I remember at the time the helmet came off I was worried for a second, but I was right on the scene and there was nothing in it. It’s a contact sport, these things are going to happen. If they start pulling up every time a helmet comes off, I think there’s going to be a lot of hassle over it. I’m sure, if you look at every game up and down the country, whether it be club or county, helmets come off. You see the hitting in it. I wouldn’t be worried about it.”

Tadhg de Búrca getting a red card in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Contrary to what might be perceived, Mahony insisted Derek McGrath is incredibly willing to give his players free rein over how they play.

“It might sound simple, but Derek just tells us to go out and express ourselves and try and attack everything and not to be worrying. We’ve been through a lot of things as a group, both collectively and individually, so it puts things in perspective and we were able to go out there and play with no fear.

“Some people may have the impression that as a group we are robotic in the way we play and we’re told what to do every time we go in training or on the field, but I can tell you it’s the complete opposite: We’re a very free-spirited group and you have to enjoy it. We’ve waited long enough to get into a final that you just can’t block yourself away from that. We’ll keep doing what we have been doing since the Cork game. You take it day by day and that’s, literally, what we’ve done.”

McGrath’s De La Salle club-mate Jake Dillon applauded the manager for how he has led the group to within 70 minutes of an All-Ireland title. Dillon didn’t know the five scrawled on the back of the manager’s left hand was dedicated to Tadhg de Búrca.

“I wasn’t aware of Derek actually doing that. We weren’t aware of it. Everyone is looking for different aspects to motivation. Derek is brilliant. Anything he asks us we want to do to the best of our ability. We always trusted them. Now, for himself and Dan [Shanahan] it’s unbelievable. They’ve been with us through thick and thin.”

Dillon felt there was too much made of McGrath’s decision to extend his parental leave from De La Salle College earlier this year.

“He’s man of 100% commitment. He’s always been like that whether it was in school... I was fortunate enough to play club hurling with him. He’s just all in. He’s a very emotional man, he’s a father figure to a lot of us. He guides us in the right direction, on and off the field. I think it was blown out of proportion about how he took the parental leave. There was only a few weeks left in the school year. Lucky enough, De La Salle school are big supporters as well.”

Meanwhile, Tipperary’s Fergal Horgan (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams) and Cork’s Colm Lyons (Nemo Rangers) comprise the shortlist to take charge of the All-Ireland SHC final. No Munster man has been appointed to officiate the final since Waterford’s Michael Wadding in 2010.

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