Stephen O’Brien cleared to face Dublin

Stephen O’Brien cleared to face Dublin

Kerry footballer Stephen O’Brien has been cleared to play in the All-Ireland SFC final.

Kerry County Board officials travelled to Croke Park yesterday evening to contest the black card O’Brien received in the 50th minute of their Super 8 victory over Meath on August 3.

O’Brien was successful in having the black card rescinded, with the Central Hearings Committee concluding that the video evidence produced by Kerry overruled referee Fergal Kelly’s report.

2014 All-Ireland winner O’Brien had been in danger of missing their final meeting with Dublin because of a cumulative one-match ban arising from his three black card offences this season. The Kenmare man’s first infraction came against Galway, in the league, a game where he was permitted to return to the action after being blacked and sin-binned. He finished proceedings back on the sideline, however, after picking up a yellow card, and therefore saw red.

His second black card offence was the aforementioned Meath fixture, while strike number three was his pull-down of Tyrone’s Connor McAliskey during second-half stoppages in last Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.

Kerry manager Peter Keane expressed his satisfaction at O’Brien being cleared for the decider.

“You don’t want to see any fella miss out on the playing of the big day and Stephen has been playing very well for us this year,” Keane told RTÉ Sport.

Elsewhere, the commentary surrounding David Gough’s suitability to take charge of the All-Ireland final was unnecessary, as well as being unfair on the Meath referee, according to Keane.

The Kerry boss, who described Gough as the “best referee in the country”, was responding to the controversy which arose from comments made by his predecessor Éamonn Fitzmaurice earlier this week.

Guesting on the Irish Examiner Championship podcast on Monday, Fitzmaurice claimed Gough cannot be seen as neutral because he lives and works in Dublin. He said it would be an “injustice if he does get the game”.

The GAA confirmed on Wednesday that Gough would whistle the Dublin-Kerry decider on Sunday, September 1.

When asked if the commentary regarding Gough’s suitability for the final had been both unfair and unnecessary, Keane replied:

I think it was, yeah. The guy is out there to do the best job he can and let him at it.

He added: “I have no problem with David Gough. I think he is the best referee in the country at this moment in time. I don’t get hung up on referees. I was thinking about it today, we played Dublin in the league and I can’t tell you who refereed the game. Was there any hoo-ha about the referee the last day. No, you get on with it.”

When questioned if he was disappointed that it was his predecessor who sparked the controversy, Keane said that “everyone is entitled to their opinion”.

The Kerry manager doesn’t believe the furore of recent days will have put additional pressure on the referee.

If you are the best ref in the country, you are used to the grief of 80,000 people inside in the ground. That is just the pressure you put with it and I don’t think it is an issue for him.

Kingdom half-back Paul Murphy is another who has “no issue whatsoever” with Gough being the man in the middle on September 1.

“He’s an excellent referee; he has a huge body of work behind him. He wouldn’t be getting a match like the All-Ireland without that. I’m sure he’ll do a great job and he’ll do it to the best of his abilities.”

A Facebook campaign is afoot to organise a protest against Gough’s appointment at Kerry’s open day this weekend at Fitzgerald Stadium.

Keane is confident James O’Donoghue will be available for selection for the county’s first All-Ireland final appearance since 2015. The 2014 footballer of the year trained last week and again on Wednesday.

“He is very close,” Keane remarked.

O’Donoghue, because of a hamstring injury, has not featured since the opening half of their Super 8 win over Mayo on July 14.

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