Spotlight sharper on officials than Diarmuid Connolly

What does it say when yet again a match official is unable to take matters into his own hands during a game, asks John Fogarty.

Spotlight sharper on officials than Diarmuid Connolly

At the time, it looked innocuous. Even if that will likely matter little in the final judgement, it’s worth stating. The reaction in our area of the O’Moore Park press box to the exchange between Diarmuid Connolly and linesman Ciarán Branagan on Saturday was muted even if Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien and coach Steven Poacher’s protests were to the contrary.

In real time, it didn’t look too bad either. Slow motion, though, damns the Dubliner. As do the constant replays. As does the fact he has a rap sheet. It is believed afterwards members of the Dublin management team were unhappy to learn live broadcasters Sky Sports were playing the incident on a loop in their analysis of the second-half.

Branagan must have felt it was much ado about nothing; otherwise, he would have made referee Seán Hurson aware of it there and then. Rest assured, he will have spoken about it either to Hurson in compiling his report or, which is most likely, will be speaking to the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) at some stage, possibly today.

Perhaps Branagan was showing common sense and understood Connolly to be acting in the heat of the moment, but the fact remains he was pushed by a player. As instantaneous as it was, Branagan’s authority was challenged. That is not acceptable and not a message the GAA wish to see being conveyed to the wider playing public.

But what does it say when yet again a match official is unable to take matters into his own hands during a game? It’s become something of a habit. Philly McMahon didn’t play in Portlaoise on Saturday because he was suspended for directing abusive language towards Paddy Neilan in the Division 1 final defeat to Kerry in April. The public didn’t learn of the sanction until McMahon contested it in front of the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) last month. Neilan never showed a card to McMahon for what he said.

Kieran McGeeney was banned for 12 weeks arising from comments he made to linesman Joe McQuillan during Armagh’s penultimate Division 3 game against Antrim in March. No media report of the game indicated action for such had been taken against the Armagh manager during or in the immediate aftermath of the game. The Matt Fitzpatrick case precipitated by the same contest but propelled by the CCCC and CHC further highlighted how punishment is being doled out away from the game in question. And then there were the Division 1 hurling semi-final suspensions handed down by the CCCC to Davy Fitzgerald and Jason Forde, neither of whom referee Diarmuid Kirwan or any of his officials felt warranted punishment.

The arguments for doubling up the number of referees and the sin bin to ensure most if not all matters are dealt with and done so in the game are well-known at this stage and we won’t regurgitate them only to state the aforementioned incidents this year only go to strengthen them. The more eyes there are on the action, the better.

The more justice is served on the day of the game itself, the better.

But there does seem to be an unwillingness on the part of match officials to dish out the appropriate sanction in real time. It was thought the bad old days of referees being happy to leave matters in the hands of the CCCC were gone but recent events would suggest otherwise and we’re neglecting to mention the ugly finale to the Down-Armagh game on Sunday where Conor Lane didn’t appear to have control of the situation.

In not only reporting Tipperary goalkeeper Evan Comerford for minor interference but sending him off in a club game last month, former inter-county referee Paddy Russell seems to have set the example to his national colleagues of how to officiate with conviction. Comerford will be sorely missed in Saturday’s Munster semi-final against Cork but any pressure from inside the county on Russell to show some leniency so Comerford might be absolved of a ban has fallen on defeat ears. Russell should be commended for doing what he was charged to do: Be a referee.

Now Connolly is regarded as the villain again, a player who may have tried the patience of one too many people in Dublin and one who already stood to miss a game should he pick up a third black card this season. The prospect of a 12-week ban like the one recommended for Comerford’s behaviour is quite real.

But what is more egregious – a lack of respect for authority or an inability to administer it? Neither is mutually exclusive of the other but if the visible wardens of Gaelic games aren’t being seen to apply the laws of them as they are contravened then there is a fundamental problem.

Ten points on O’Sullivan controversy

It will be a long time before Brendan O’Sullivan stops regretting the day he took a fat-burning supplement. The GAA and Sport Ireland must heed lessons from the case too. What should be taken from it?

1. Double the amount of tests. Treble them even. If Gaelic players have nothing to hide then they won’t mind. Besides, they are receiving grants in part for their co- operation.

2. The GAA has a chance here to prove to everyone else what they already believe: That their sports are the cleanest in the world.

3. Missed tests, even if they are for genuine reasons, should be completed at the next possible opportunity.

4. Ignorance can no longer be excused. The O’Sullivan case has ensured that.

5. Every January, county panels should be briefed in a formal setting as to what substances can and can’t be taken.

6. Fear is now the overriding factor among players but in time they will be educated.

7. To that end, just how have the roles of the nutritionist/dieticians/doctor in each camp elevated?

8. A big if but can some supplements be regulated? If they can, then the GAA should compile an approved list and insist no other products can be taken.

9. We know of at least five prominent inter-county players who have or had ties in either promoting or working on behalf of supplement companies. If they haven’t already, they might be best to sever them. Even if their brands conform to the World Anti-Doping Agency-approved list, the O’Sullivan case raises awareness of contamination.

10. Not all GAA players are so careless in what they put into their bodies. One current All-Star refuses to take any form of medicine or tablet.

Peadar Healy can’t shy away from the media

Should we read anything into the fact that Cork’s footballers have chosen not to organise a press conference ahead of Saturday’s Munster semi-final? Tipperary don’t seem to be planning anything, either, so perhaps not.

Then again, they did arrange one prior to the narrow win over Waterford, and maybe they believe that shying away from talking about that spluttering display, in Dungarvan, would best serve them as they face the team that surprised them last year. And sure, didn’t the hurlers choose not to stage a press event before they faced Tipperary, and look what happened there.

We’ve written before about the failure of Cork management to front-up and it was evident again at the Munster championship launch. Selectors were delegated to speak on behalf of management. And following the footballers’ slender win over Waterford, it was left to Eoin O’Neill to explain why the team were so bloody bad. O’Neill has had unenviable duties these last few months.

Peadar Healy is known not to favour facing the media, but if he wants to reassure people that Cork’s bid to return to a Munster final hasn’t been derailed, and that they can christen Páirc Uí Chaoimh on July 2, then he should be putting himself front-of-house. When too many of his players went missing against Waterford, the last thing Cork now need is for Healy to go AWOL. Leadership is as much about being seen to lead as it is in doing.


More in this section