You imagine as the Kerry party left Croke Park yesterday evening they were preparing a case for the defence of Stephen O’Brien.
As the player said himself, it’s likely to centre about the black card shown to him in the Meath game in Páirc Tailteann last Saturday week.
There is video footage and it’s then a question of Kerry being able to convince the Central Hearings Committee that he was unfairly treated by Fergal Kelly.
What’s for sure is Kerry can’t do anything about the black card yesterday - it was clear-cut. As for the cards in the League game against Galway in Tuam, who knows if there is sufficient video from it to contest them.
Kerry should do everything to try and free him up - I know Dublin would and they would likely get him off too. As for whether the cumulative ban is fair, I think it is. If you do it twice in a season then okay but you have no excuse doing it three times. Then there is the whole argument about whether black cards and what not applying in All-Ireland finals. While I believe O’Brien would be dreadfully unfortunate to miss the final, there has to be consistency.
In such situations, one game has to be treated like another. The other matter concerning Kerry people as a result of what happened yesterday is the identity of the All-Ireland final referee. They might believe they have had been unlucky with David Gough in the past but it would be an injustice if he doesn’t get the appointment.
As I mentioned last week, Gough has been extremely patient and if he doesn’t get the big one here I would wonder if he will continue refereeing at inter-county level. James McGrath felt he was snubbed last year and Gough has been excellent this season and really should have been a senior final referee by this stage.
Whatever Kerry people’s hang-ups with him are, I don’t think they should fear him being given the role in the game against Dublin.
He might work in Dublin but so does David Coldrick and that didn’t have any impact on him.
David has worked his socks off to get to this stage and he is due it.
He will be going out to do his best for himself, his family and his club as well as Kerry and Dublin. Kerry shouldn’t be worrying about him.
Maurice Deegan yesterday wouldn’t have upset Kerry fans too much although he did give a lot of advantage and that didn’t work out for them as much as it did Tyrone. Paul Geaney and Martin Sludden were booked early on but Sludden looked hard done by as Geaney was the instigator.
Conor Meyler was also unlucky to give away a free when Seán O’Shea seemed to dive. The yellow cards for Tommy Walsh and Niall Morgan were justified although Rory Brennan’s tackle was what we could deem an orange - dangerous enough for a red but definitely a yellow.
On Saturday, Conor Lane did well. Players, you could see, were more careful than usual other than Michael Darragh Macauley. He could have seen two yellows but Conor had a word with him early on and doing that showed he had an understanding of how big a game it was. Macauley later was shown a yellow for lashing out after receiving a mark.
John Small could have no complaints about his yellow after three fouls.
Matthew Ruane’s foul on Small was rightly punished with a yellow and Brian Fenton did lead with his elbow for his. Stephen Coen was also booked correctly as was Lee Keegan for persistent fouling of Con O’Callaghan.
Cillian O’Connor simply had to go when he followed up a yellow card on Jonny Cooper with a high foul on Davy Byrne. Conor also showed good advantage for the Brian Fenton goal after Ciarán Kilkenny was blatantly fouled.
Both Kevin McLoughlin (apparent stamp on Niall Scully) and Eoin O’Donoghue (striking with the elbow) could also have been shown red cards near the end. Cormac Costello also deserved his black card. Conor can be very happy with his year and is one of the better referees out there.
On a final note, there were a few incidents over the two games where hand-offs were used and scores came indirectly or directly from them.
Referees have been strong on punishing this in recent years but it seems to have been let go again.