Our exchange of salutations with Conor McCarthy in Killarney on Saturday was a brief one.
Not because we feared the wrought of being seen with him. Scout’s honour. He was simply going in an opposite direction on Lewis Road and there was rain to avoid.
We didn’t part without jokingly warning him to keep his head down. Going by the words of a Kerry County Board official we met later that evening, he might have been better wearing a helmet. He didn’t so much as poke a hornets’ nest as pound it.
As a Cork man, McCarthy was accused of having an agenda. Kerry folk cried foul on the tenet of
Some of the reaction to the article bordered on the hilarious. On Newstalk on Friday night, former Kerry player Declan O’Sullivan cried conspiracy. “I’m not sure where it is coming from. Maybe it’s coming from the management side of things. They tried something very similar against Mayo last year as well.”
O’Sullivan was referring to Brian Cuthbert and Ronan McCarthy’s comments about Mayo’s “tactical fouling” prior to the counties’ All- Ireland quarter-final.
To suggest McCarthy was in cahoots with them comes across as absurd. O’Sullivan seems to be suffering from the same kind of paranoid affliction as his club-mate Jack O’Connor during his first term as Kerry manager.
Engaging with McCarthy on Twitter, Tomás Ó Sé and Sean O’Sullivan took exception to his claims. In fairness to the pair and the other two Ó Sé brothers, they were never ones to gabble with referees but they had team-mates who were.
@Jeff_Griffin82 don't agree. Kerry got penalty that was not. Fair enough. Rest of it?Don't agree with hardly any of it. I Never played a ref— Tomás Ó Sé (@tomas5ky) July 17, 2015
The best, most established teams do. Mentioning Kerry in the same bracket as New Zealand, McCarthy was actually paying them a massive compliment.
At the same time and inadvertently he was highlighting something Cork don’t have.
Reading McCarthy’s article, Alec Baldwin’s famous scene in Glengarry Glen Ross came to mind. Kieran Donaghy follows the ABC philosophy — Always Be Closing. Everything he does on a pitch, be it a handshake or a handpass, is aimed towards closing. There is purpose to his actions. Sean Cavanagh is another. In Thurles on Saturday, he clearly fouled Colin O’Riordan yet had reason to complain about it with referee David Gough.
To suggest referees aren’t malleable is a naive notion. If that wasn’t the case then why have so many managers made attempts in the media to try and plant a seed into a referee’s head before games? Like James Horan before the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin. Like Cuthbert and McCarthy prior to last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final. It’s not a condonable practice but it happens too regularly to believe managers when they say referees are their own men.
The likes of Donaghy, Sean Cavanagh and Stephen Cluxton are around that long that they know all the referees on first name terms. That sort of familiarity is an asset.
Not to use it would not only be a waste, it would also be an oversight. Referees, as has so often been said, are humans. What they want is to be respected but they like to be liked.
Earlier this year in Killarney, Jim Gavin argued Kerry had attempted to influence the referee Eddie Kinsella into sending off Michael Fitzsimons for a serious foul on Fionn Fitzgerald. “A lot of the opposing players seemed to put him under pressure,” he said.
“Maybe the wrong call was made, we’ll need to review the tape, and for the sending off, the player (Fitzgerald) seemed to go down quite quickly so again we’ll have to have a look at that.” Fitzsimons deserved to be dismissed but there was Donaghy giving credit to Kinsella afterwards.
“Kerry and Dublin is notoriously feisty. I thought Eddie and his officiating team did a great job. There were a few skirmishes here and there. I thought he handled it very well. When the cards needed to be given out, he gave them out.”
Kerry, like any other county, have every right to be indignant but only when it’s warranted. Like when Eamonn Fitzmaurice spoke of what does appear to be a movement to paint his team as cynical. Like how on Saturday Michael Shields wasn’t subjected to the same criticism as Aidan O’Mahony for feigning an injury in 2008.
But McCarthy’s piece was not something to get hung up on. There was more than a smidgeon of a suggestion that the Kerry fans were protesting too much. Maybe it was frustration of a county who as reigning All-Ireland champions have been shot at one too many times already this year. If anyone had reason to be up in arms last week it was Cork when Darragh Ó Sé described Alan O’Connor as a bully. In one word, he was more offensive than all 1,500 words or so of McCarthy’s column.
In his acceptance speech in Clones on Sunday, Monaghan captain Conor McManus thanked David Coldrick and his officials. Referees are rarely mentioned in such addresses but what harm could it do?
More importantly, what advantage might it bring? Coldrick will take charge of one or two games from the All-Ireland quarter-finals onwards and with that there is a possibility his and Monaghan’s paths will cross again.
McManus is no daw. Neither is Donaghy. They know their ABC.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved