Other than how referee John O’Brien could have got it so wrong on Saturday, the most pertinent question arising from the Christy Ring Cup final surrounded the role of HawkEye in Croke Park.
If the system truly is score detection technology, the official in the booth should have informed the referee the game was tied at the final whistle.
Although Meath have raised doubts about fulfilling a replay because of players heading to the US, a second date looks to be the recommendation of the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) today.
And yet the fate of the eventual winners of the competition also remains in doubt. An Antrim motion calling for the Christy Ring Cup winners to be granted a Leinster quarter-final place in the following year’s championship was passed at Congress this year despite it raising a myriad of problems for an already flawed competition such as the unfairness of leapfrogging those in the qualifiers. A Special Congress may yet be required to clean up that mess.
Croke Park, though, wasn’t the only place where there were discrepancies this past weekend. In fact, the GAA’s inter-county scene was full of them:
Yes, that old chestnut. On at least three occasions since 2012, Mayo have maximised the loophole in the blood substitute rule to make more than the regulation number of substitutes. Four years ago, when the limit was five, they made eight personnel switches in beating Dublin in that season’s All-Ireland semi-final. On Saturday, it was Dublin’s turn to exploit the anomaly in the rule. After picking up a bloody nose from a John O’Loughlin strike in the 27th minute, Michael Darragh Macauley was treated for the injury and replaced by Denis Bastick. Macauley, following a change of jersey, was soon seen warming up and down the sideline but did not return to action until the 45th minute. Approximately 20 minutes passed, allowing Dublin to make what was effectively a seventh substitute.
Prior to Saturday’s Leinster quarter-final, Dublin had 28 players warming up. Nothing new there. Even though teams have been restricted to using 26 registered players on championship day since the rule was introduced last year, there is no limit on the number of players togging out providing they’re not made available for action. A number of teams have done exactly what Dublin did in Nowlan Park, happy it seems to incur what by rule seems to be a €500 fine. Jim Gavin is no fan of the rule and ultimately Dublin could only pick from 25 players due to the knee injury picked up by Paul Flynn in the warm-up.
“Does Shane McNulty actually exist?” was the quip from one wag in the Thurles press box on Sunday. So often do we see the De La Salle player lined out in the match programme in midfield wearing No.9 when every man, woman and monkey, as David Brady puts it, knows he won’t be lining out. At this stage, Waterford’s squad number policy is understood by the public yet the GAA maintain the conventional one to 15 numbering. Waterford are no strangers to scribbled match programmes – Justin McCarthy was notorious for late changes – but the only 11th-hour one on Sunday was Pauric Mahony’s introduction for Colin Dunford. On the basis of what happened in Semple Stadium, Mahony (20), Darragh Fives (18) and Maurice Shanahan (21) will be the anomalies in match programmes long into the summer.
As you will have read in reports of Sunday’s Munster semi-final, Shane Golden, wearing the No.26 jersey, was listed as Clare’s third permanent sub, coming on for David Fitzgerald. In fact, it was David McInerney who was brought in. The confusion arose because McInerney had the same numbered jersey. According to the GAA rule last year, a team that fields a player not listed in a senior inter-county championship match-day panel registered to the Central Competitions Control Committee are penalised by forfeiture of the game. However, it emerged the deadline for the match programme was earlier than the GAA’s Thursday 9am cut-off. Still, the confusion could have been avoided.
A keen observer of jerseys, Denis Hurley of this parish highlighted Galway players wore two sets of jerseys in Mullingar on Sunday. In the first-half, they wore a predominantly white jersey with a maroon trim before they switched to one with maroon sleeves in the second half. The rain in the opening period combined with sweat may have been the reason they opted for the change but the gear wasn’t uniform, further emphasised by the second-half subs who wore the original jersey.
Former Waterford player Shane Aherne, who was working as WLRFM analyst on Sunday, noted the Clare subs sat in the dug-out during the game when there were seats allocated to them at the bottom of the Kinane Stand. Waterford’s replacements sat in their designated area of the stand. It isn’t clear in the rulebook if Clare broke a match-day regulation but it was something also mentioned by the Waterford camp afterwards, even if it ultimately amounted to a hill of beans.
No weakness in McGrath’s honesty
The decision by Davy Fitzgerald last year to introduce a PR manager was seized upon by critics of the Clare manager for a variety of reasons. It was interpreted as an overreaction to the fallout with a couple of players early last season.
Yet Fitzgerald has never been more open to the media as he has been this season. Giving journalists a tour of Clare’s Caherlohan training base, providing off-the-record briefings and making himself available for interview more than ever before, it’s not just because he made a commitment to enjoy this season more that he has embraced glasnost: Mark Dunphy’s presence has clearly contributed to that too.
It wasn’t because of such honesty that Clare lost on Sunday. On the other side, Derek McGrath hasn’t been afraid to reveal he suffers from paranoia and self-perceived shortcomings. He has never regarded admitting to his weaknesses as something that may impact on his team. The interview he gave this newspaper was conducted last Wednesday afternoon. The one he offered Newstalk was recorded less than 48 hours before his team won through to a Munster final. At a time when interviews with managers and players the week of games are sanitised to the point of boredom, what McGrath did was positively refreshing.
McGrath’s way isn’t one-size-fits-all. Nobody could imagine Brian Cody conceding hurling impinged on his teaching profession before he retired recently.
Armagh protest way over the top
Own up – you watched Armagh’s right to reply on The Sunday Game through your fingers, didn’t you? Well, you weren’t the only one.
As pundit Tomás Ó Sé reacted to chairman Paul McArdle, it simply wasn’t needed. Instead of cutting the oxygen Joe Brolly’s viewpoint has received since the previous Sunday, they only replenished it with back-up tanks.
Compelling Jamie Clarke to issue a press statement clarifying his relationship with Kieran McGeeney was just as embarrassing. In his interview with this newspaper last Saturday week, Clarke made it abundantly clear he had no gripes with the Armagh manager. Although he mentioned more could have been done to persuade him to stay on and questioned some of the tactics, he thanked McGeeney for making him more humble – “Kieran changed me for a better way outside of football”.
Clarke made it clear McGeeney wasn’t at fault for the drop-out of Crossmaglen players from the county set-up. “It looks bad from the outside in as it does with me leaving but it’s not me leaving Kieran. It’s not his fault. I still think you have to respect Kieran for coming in at a time when things haven’t been good.”
Like their football, Armagh’s press relations have left a lot to be desired in recent seasons, going back to their ill-judged media ban in 2013. To think, a communications company sponsored them that season. Some PR advice wouldn’t have gone astray on this occasion either.
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