All-Ireland final referee David Gough has responded to the controversy generated by the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast, on which former Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice insisted Gough shouldn’t be selected to ref that final.
And Gough dismisses the theory there was anything “sinister” in Fitzmaurice’s comments, which came in a response to a question posed by fellow Kerryman Mike Quirke.
Meath man Gough lives and works in Dublin and Fitzmaurice suggested it would be unfair if he was appointed to the Kerry v Dublin clash. Gough had made a number of errors when the sides previously clashed in the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final.
“I think it’s an injustice if he does get the game,” said Fitzmaurice. “I am not going to be dictating here who I feel should get the game, but a final referee has to be a neutral referee.
"Living and working in Dublin, you are not neutral. If you are living there, you are meeting people in the shop, at work, down the street.
“Of course when David Gough goes out to referee a match he is trying to be neutral and impartial, I am not questioning that, but it can’t be fair that if you are living and working in a place, that you get to referee an All-Ireland final involving that county.”
Speaking in an interview with the Irish Independent, Gough says he has listened to the podcast and concluded that the remarks had been blown out of proportion.
"He gave his honest opinion, I don't think there was anything sinister in it, but it was a quiet week in the media, Kerry/Dublin camps were very quiet and it was much easier to talk about the referee who hadn't been appointed. I understand that."
Gough says he broke down in tears when word arrived he had been appointed to the decider.
“I was in Slane at the time, only myself and my grandmother at home. All my umpires were abroad on a family holiday, the two us of in the living room sobbing away, relief," he recalled.
Before the final, it had been pointed out that Gough and Dublin defender Jonny Cooper both worked for DCU, deepening his familiarity with Dublin players. As it turned out Gough was forced to dismiss Cooper in the drawn final.
"When I had to issue a second yellow card to Jonny, what people don't realise is that he and I work in the same university. I work in Drumcondra, he works in Glasnevin (as a recruitment officer). In three years I think we have seen each other twice, we have probably passed each other those two times and said hello, but we have never had a conversation as such.
"There would be huge respect there and the decision was made. My mind was made up the second the foul was committed that it was a yellow card, the yellow and red were produced before any players had time to come in and influence my decision. It all played out exactly on the field how I had visualised it before."
Interestingly, Gough admits he almost made a pivotal mistake in the drawn game’s final moments. With Dean Rock lining up a potentially match-winning free, Kerry’s Tommy Walsh asked him if a free would be awarded were Walsh to lift teammate David Moran in an attempt to block the kick. Gough admits neither he nor linesman Conor Lane knew the correct response, so gave the go ahead for the move. But he now says that would have been a mistake.
"It would have been an interesting end to an All-Ireland final had a five-in-a-row been stopped by a rugby-style lift on the goal line which I would not have blown as a free.
"Interestingly, because it would be deemed a technical foul, it's not a foul on the player, it would have resulted in a penalty because it was inside the small parallelogram and that would have been the other decision I would have had to make."
Gough, an openly gay man, says he has never suffered homophobic abuse from a player, but has experienced it from supporters.
"I heard it from the stands. It certainty hasn't happened on the pitch, the players have way too much respect as I have for them," he said,