GAA Angry Fans

Anyone who thought we might get past an exhilarating game like Sunday's All Ireland senior hurling final without controversy was sadly mistaken. On the contrary, a number of key refereeing decisions are the focus of a heated debate about their effect on the result. The GAA's King Canute-like attempts to prevent a flood of fans onto the pitch after the final whistle also come in for fierce criticism from traditionalists and even the handling of the presentation to the minors gets a right lash from a disgruntled fan.

Anyone who thought we might get past an exhilarating game like Sunday's All Ireland senior hurling final without controversy was sadly mistaken. On the contrary, a number of key refereeing decisions are the focus of a heated debate about their effect on the result. The GAA's King Canute-like attempts to prevent a flood of fans onto the pitch after the final whistle also come in for fierce criticism from traditionalists and even the handling of the presentation to the minors gets a right lash from a disgruntled fan.

Sunday's refereeing controversy is really part of a continuing saga of fans' anger over the alleged poor quality of refereeing and umpiring in top championship games. At least this week, the anger is tempered by some suggestions for reform.

Post match interviews with Bainisteoirí have been a novel focus of anger this season and none more so than last Sunday's Morrissey v Cody 'Lark in the Park' on RTÉ. Most judges scored it a draw.

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RED CARD WHAT A PROUD day for the GAA, the media and BARA - the Black and Amber Referees' Association. We had another major hurling match involving the 'all untouchables' that are Kilkenny and the poor saps who had the stupidity and the temerity to try and play a match on an equal footing. For the mighty Cats who had the satisfaction of winning a game of 16 v 14, well done, you must be very proud. To the media who spend their days worshipping at the altar of Kilkenny hurling, well done boys. Another day on your knees. Forget the fact that there are other counties. Just wallow in your fawning and love of all things Black and Amber.

What's the point of next year or any other year, while the rest of us try and make an honest effort? The rest of you stay on your knees afraid of upsetting Cody and the Cats. We have to spend our days remembering the past when there was some sense of justice and equality is this now lopsided organisation.
- Terry O Brien

AFR'S SHOUT: As that great French philosopher and sports fan, Voltaire, was supposed to have said 'I disagree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it'. Let's be clear about one thing. No way could Benny Dunne have stayed on the pitch after his pull across Tommy Walsh's face. Maybe Kilkenny had a bit of luck on Sunday, but Tipp had the winning of the game in their own hands and threw it away.

TICK IN THE BOOK CONGRATULATIONS TO THE Cats on winning their 'four in a row'. They are worthy champions. However, let's not beat around the bush. The referee's performance was shocking. He set the tone for the game after only four minutes when Seamus Callinan got floored. What does he do? He gives a throw ball! Maher's head was pinned to the ground and he gives a free to Kilkenny. As for the penalty, how many steps was he going to allow the Kilkenny forward to take before he blew up? For the Cats' second goal he missed Paul Curran being pushed in the build-up. People might say it's sour grapes but everything I've mentioned had a massive bearing on the game.
- angry tipp man.

TICK IN THE BOOK THE STANDARD OF refereeing in the hurling and football championships has been very poor this season. In the hurling final, last Sunday, it was a major blunder by the referee to award a penalty to Kilkenny. I'm urging all GAA supporters to send their concerns about the standard of refereeing and the inconsistencies to GAA Headquarters. It's most unfair for players to put in a huge effort all year and lose a game due to bad decisions by the referee.
- Mike C

AFR'S SHOUT: The controversial penalty award alone would not have turned the game against Tipperary. Undoubtedly, Benny Dunne's sending off did but that sucker punch was self-inflicted. The referee was absolutely correct in that decision.

BRIAN CODY ALWAYS seemed to me to be a humble man despite all he has achieved and the praise heaped on him. That is why I was very surprised by his reaction to Marty Morrissey's simple question about the penalty in the RTÉ post-match interview. All he needed to say was that he thought it was one and move on. For crying out loud, he had just managed a team to the 'four in a row'!
- Rebel Chica

TIPP LOST THE MATCH but Sheedy won the managerial interview hands down - a minor point you might think, but I don't think so. The cracks are beginning to show in the Kilkenny armour and they'll be there to be beaten next year. The question is can Tipp hold it together mentally to take advantage next year or will it be one of the other counties? Judging by Sheedy's interview I think he'll have Tipp ready for that opportunity.
- As Baile

AFR'S SHOUT: Neither man came out of the encounter well.

YELLOW CARD THE GAA IS OUR organisation. A couple of officials above in Croke Park have no right to tell the vast majority of members of this organisation what to do or not do. We paid for that stadium and we should be able to invade the pitch and keep alive a 100 year long tradition of having the Liam McCarthy Cup presented in the Hogan Stand with the teams' fans in front of them.
- Man from Delmonte

AFR'S SHOUT: Given that Mick Hogan was shot in 1920, I don't understand how there could be a 100 year long tradition of presenting the Cup in the 'Hogan' Stand.

THE ONLY DANGER created in Croke Park on Sunday was by the GAA themselves. You can't tell people what to do when they are the Association and the majority want this tradition to continue. What were the GAA playing at in telling people to stay off the pitch and thinking that we'll ignore tradition and just do exactly what they say? We are not soccer hooligans. We are the GAA and we do things our way. We have greater things to aspire to than trying to be like soccer or any other sport for that matter. The people have spoken and Croke Park should take note.
- Knight Set

AFR'S SHOUT: I wouldn't go to the wall in defending the tradition of invading the pitch after a final because of the obvious safety concerns. However, if fans insist on it, the GAA have got to work within that context and manage the situation rather than have the dangerous chaos we saw for several minutes at the Hill 16 end. Better to put in place proper measures to steward people safely on and off the pitch after the match than engage in a futile game of cat and mouse with generally good-humoured supporters. Maybe some prominent disclaimer notices like you see, say, in car parks might ward off insurance claims, if they are an issue?

RED CARD IT IS JUST not good enough anymore to let guys put in so much effort only to be denied by a crazy refereeing decision in the final stages. This stuff about Tipp being the coming team is nonsense. By the time NAMA and the Budget have been passed half our GAA stars may have emigrated. Kilkenny were handed a dodgy 'four in a row' on Sunday.
- Méar Fhada

AFR'S SHOUT: While I agree with your overall comment about how rough it is to lose a final because of refereeing decisions, if I had a big 'Black-and-Amber' card I'd flash it at you for that snide comment about the Cats' 'four in a row'. Remember, it wasn't just put together last Sunday. It took four years and four finals to achieve it. So, I'll just have to settle for giving you a good old Rebel Red!

YELLOW CARD WE HAD CRAZY umpiring decisions on Sunday as well as 'difficult to judge' reffing decisions and off the ball incidents. Hurling nowadays is so fast, it's too much to expect one man to marshal it all for seventy minutes and get everything right. Linesmen and umpires don't always spot things. What we need are two referees, one of whom would have the job of looking look out for these off the ball incidents.
- Limerick Mick

AFR'S SHOUT: A second referee on the field would just double the amount of controversies we already have. However, I take your point about the speed of the modern hurling game over seventy minutes turning into overload for one official. A better idea might be to swallow our Gaelic pride and investigate the rugby idea of a video referee to help sort out these controversial big 'calls' that so affect the outcome of big games.

ON PAGE 86 of Sunday's programme it said how big a day it was not only for the minor players on the pitch but for their family, friends and clubs. It stated 'For some it will be the peak of their sporting achievements, for others a springboard to future success'. If those well-chosen words meant anything to the event organisers they might at least have let everyone in the stadium see the full presentation of medals not only to the winning team but, as importantly, to the very capable losing side, Kilkenny. Instead, all we got to see was Richie Cummins lifting the cup and a couple of medals presented before they cut to a graphic advertising the sponsors and telling us what competition it was.

How dare they! BOTH minor teams and their families put in a huge effort to get their sons to that day and to pull plug on the big screen plug on the full presentation demonstrated the crassness and sheer ignorance of event organisers who seem more interested in keeping their sponsors happy. It's not about sponsors. It's about sport - playing sport, watching sport and enjoying the result.
- The Ash Doctor

AFR'S SHOUT: Many people are unhappy, as well, because the '25-year' veterans are no longer included in RTÉ's live coverage. I always think this is one of the nicer touches on All Ireland Day. It brings back memories, shows the 'greats' of the game that the contribution they made in their day is still honoured and is a boost for weaker counties who may not feature in the finals too often.

TICK IN THE BOOK WHAT A GREAT All Ireland hurling final we had this year! It was badly needed after a most disappointing championship overall. To really save hurling, we need new champions next season.
- Scobby

AFR'S SHOUT: We may well have new champions next season but I think maybe you're too critical of this year's standard. At various times, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford, Galway and Dublin all gave us enthralling performances. What's wrong with the championship is not the standard of hurling but the crazy way it's organised.

TICK IN THE BOOK WHY DID DIARMUID O'Flynn choose the week prior to the All-Ireland final to espouse the cause of Henry Shefflin as 'The greatest hurler ever', using statistics as the basis for this opinion? This approach presents major problems. How do you measure the immense hurling skills of the great Ollie Walsh, Brendan Cummins or Ger Cunningham as goalkeepers? How do you apply statistics to the skills of the peerless centre-back, Sean MacMahon, the modern goliaths of full-back play, Martin O'Doherty and Brian Lohan, corner backs of the calibre of John Doyle, Ollie Canning or Brian Murphy or midfielders like Joe Salmon or Frank Cummins? Does Brian Whelehan's immense contribution to the successes of Offaly in virtually all the lines of defence and attack, along with his selection as the only hurler still playing at the time of the Team of the Millennium, not entitle him to be mentioned ahead of Shefflin and in the same breath as Ring and Mackey ?

In all discussions about the greatest hurler ever, the choice invariably rests with a forward and, in this context, Shefflin is quite rightly a viable candidate as one of the greatest forwards of all times. But the greatest hurler ever? There is, in my opinion, no definitive way of reaching agreement but isn't that what makes it a fascinating fireside occupation and long may the argument continue?
- Tom Noone

AFR'S SHOUT: I think you've answered your own question, Tom, in your final comment. These are just opinions and comments that keep the pot boiling and help pass the long dark nights more enjoyably. I take it you played as a goalie or back yourself?

IT IS NOW past the time for the Qualifiers in the hurling championship to be done away with. Since they were introduced in 2001, they have afforded the bigger and better counties a second chance to get their act together and have done nothing for the so-called weaker sides.

The 'Big Three' - Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork - have won the last eleven All Ireland finals between them. The provincial championships have completely lost their edge since the second chance was introduced, an edge that was always there in the old knockout system. Hurling supporters have lost interest in the Qualifiers and it is now time to come up with some sort of open draw or champions' league, which will also give counties a few extra free Sundays to complete their own club championships.

I well recall the days when supporters spent months looking forward to the first round of the Munster or Leinster championship but nowadays they have not got the same interest when they know that the back door is there if they lose. If the powers-that-be decide to retain the present system, they should at least re-introduce the four quarter-finals to ensure that the four best teams would end up in the semi-finals.
- Seamus Walsh

AFR'S SHOUT: I think there is a growing realisation, Seamus, albeit slowly, that the championship format is in dire need of major reform, and that includes scrapping the provincial championships.

RED CARD IT IS ABOUT time the GAA did something about the unfair advantage given to players who take frees and sideline kicks from the hand over those who decide to kick from the ground? I have been taking particular notice of this for some years now and I am amazed that nothing has ever been done to prevent cheating by the kick from the hand players. This type of cheating was introduced by some Northern counties and has now spread to the entire country in both male and ladies football.

I'm sure you have all noticed the antics. The referee awards a free and indicates the spot from which the kick is to be taken. If the angle is good, or straight in front of goal, the kick from the hand player begins his run to kick from the indicated spot so that when he takes the kick he is 3,4,5 or sometimes 6 or 7 steps nearer goal. The same applies to sideline kicks.

Players who chose to kick from the ground are at an enormous disadvantage because, generally, the placing of the ball is well observed. Could referees not place some sort of marker on the ground, so as to ensure the kick from the hand merchants do not cheat? This could be swiftly retrieved by a linesman or umpire. Alternatively, linesmen and umpires should be more involved in ensuring fair play.
- Level Playing Field

AFR'S SHOUT: 'Cheat' and 'cheating' are not words I would throw around lightly in respect of any of our players and I disagree fundamentally with your use of them. Players - in both hurling and football - will always try to gain some advantage in the placing or taking of placed balls and I don't agree that 'kickers from the hand' should be singled out for special attention. As for your suggestion of refs placing a marker on the spot? Please, we're bad enough already with goalkeepers fiddling around with tees for kick outs and referees are already overburdened with other responsibilities!


Tom Noone wins our All Ireland Hurling Final 'Comment of the Week'. He gets it, not for taking our colleague Diarmuid O'Flynn to task, but for his cogently argued reminder that great players are found in every position, from one to fifteen. Tom wins his choice of a His or Hers GAA T-shirt from our good friends at Puckout.com, the web site where you can design your own leisure wear online.


CATCH UP with more great conversation, controversy and craic on 'An Fear Rua - The GAA Unplugged!' at www.anfearrua.com


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