Waterford were rejoicing last night as it was confirmed that Austin Gleeson has been cleared to play in the All-Ireland final, writes John Fogarty.
As reported by the Irish Examiner yesterday, the 22-year-old had no case to answer after referee James Owens deemed he had dealt with his first half clash with Cork’s Luke Meade at the time in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final. Therefore, no retrospective punishment could be proposed by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC).
Waterford County Board chairman Pat Flynn was notified by the CCCC yesterday evening.
Waterford will decide in the coming days whether to seek a Central Hearings Committee (CHC) meeting to contest the one-match ban recommended to Conor Gleeson after he and Patrick Horgan were sent off in the 69th minute.
Selector Dan Shanahan was quoted as saying Waterford will fight the ban but making a case to overturn the proposed penalty would appear to be a difficult one.
In the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s game, there had been fears last year’s hurler and young hurler of the year Austin would suffer the same fate as team-mate Stephen Bennett, who was retrospectively banned for pulling the faceguard of Damien Cahalane in the Munster semi-final defeat to Cork.
However, Owens deemed that he had taken appropriate action akin to Barry Kelly who was asked to clarify if he was satisfied with his performance in last Sunday week’s All-Ireland semi-final where he had waved play on when Galway defender Adrian Tuohy had reached back and pulled off Patrick Maher’s helmet.
Waterford chairman Paddy Joe Ryan expressed delight at the news Gleeson would be available to Derek McGrath for Galway showdown.
“I’m thrilled for Austin that he will be free to play in the final. It’s a great boost to Waterford but to the final as well because the way people have been building this up it’s like the Joe Canning-Austin Gleeson final. I’m just delighted his fate is the same as the Galway hurler (Tuohy) last week.”
Gleeson’s incident was the third time in this year’s championship that a Waterford hurler has been involved in interfering with an opponent’s helmet this year after Bennett and then Tadhg de Búrca picked up another one-match suspension having been sent off for catching the helmet strap of Harry Kehoe in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Ryan says how helmets are worn needs to be addressed.
“It’s just an observation but what I’m wondering is are players tying their helmets properly because this seems to be more of an issue at county level that in club games.
“The whole helmet rule, as far as I’m aware, was brought in at the behest of the players and the doctors (the medical, scientific and welfare committee). I’m led to believe that the sanctions were proposed by the players. I know they weren’t brought forward by club delegates.”
Former Waterford captain Stephen Molumphy is just relieved Waterford can now plan for Galway with Gleeson.
“It’s over and done with now, it hasn’t been dragged out and that’s great because it was so unfair on Tadhg. Because it’s nipped in the bud and settled, Derek can really put his mind to finding where is best on the field to get the best out of Austin. He was quiet for the first 45 minutes on Sunday but then he clicked and he changed the game.”
On the other hand, Molumphy knows that there’s an element of fortune about Gleeson’s break and knows players have to behave better.
“I stopped playing a few years ago and they’re physical games but the off-the-ball stuff is not as bad as it was 10 years ago. Maybe because there are more cameras picking up everything now and there’s The Sunday Game and Sky and different TV panels it seems like there is more. They’re definitely looking at things more closely.
“There’s only a small minority of these incidents happening compared to the past. It’s gone out of the game. It’s more a game of movement now. The players are a lot younger and things are not as physical but it has come to a point where players have to be conscious of what they should and should not be doing. There was a small loss of control at the time and those things will be picked up.”
Among the social media reacting to the news, former Kilkenny star Eddie Brennan posted on Twitter: “Rule on helmet interference should be abolished immediately.”
Wexford selector and Gleeson’s Mount Sion club-mate Páraic Fanning slammed the helmet rule as “stupid” and tweeted: “All this retrospective reviewing by GAA needs to be stopped. Someday a team is going to challenge actual result based on ref error and win”.
Seoirse Bulfin, Fanning’s fellow Wexford selector, posted: “Right or wrong, a decision has been made. I just hope everyone can now focus on what will be a truly momentous Hurling Final this year”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.