On a dramatic day where the one constant was a glaring lack of GAA leadership on the issue, the executive of Meath County Board confirmed that they would not be acceding to requests for the game to be re-fixed.
It is understood that the Meath players, angered by reports of post-match poor sportsmanship from Louth players and supporters, were “not inclined” to play the Leinster final a second time.
Once this was communicated to Meath officials, the decision was effectively made. There were some back-channel communications yesterday between the Leinster Council and Meath, with one source suggesting that the players’ will was weakening at one stage, but the matter is now concluded.
In a statement released after a meeting in Navan last night, the Meath County Board executive indicated that this “is the end of the matter” and expressed their disappointment at “the unenviable position” that they and the Meath team had been placed in.
The statement in full reads: “Coiste na Mí has received a copy of the referee’s report on last Sunday’s Leinster senior football final. The referee indicated in the report, that he blew the whistle for a penalty, but changed his mind and gave a goal to Joe Sheridan when he saw the ball (had) crossed the line.
“Coiste na Mí has been advised by the CCCC of the Leinster Council, that in accordance rule 6.41 and acting on the referee’s report on the above game, Meath are the winners.
“Having considered all aspects of the game and subsequent suggestions, as well as the referee’s report and Leinster Council communication, Coiste na Mí wishes to confirm that as far as it is concerned this is the end of the matter.
“Coiste na Mí wishes to express its disappointment that they and the team have been placed in such an unenviable position over the past two days.”
The statement appears to draw a line under the entire controversy. However, the fallout for Meath for the remainder of this year’s Championship may play a decisive role in their progress or otherwise.
Former Meath All-Ireland winner Bernard Flynn argued last night that the Royal players and management should never have been forced into making the decision, and fears the younger members of the squad will struggle to cope with the backlash in the coming weeks.
He also accused the Leinster Council of abdicating their responsibilities on the issue and expressed his disappointment at the failure of the Meath County Board to publicly back the players and management’s decision on Monday.
“The panel of players and the management were pushed into a corner there last night,’’ he said. “We’re not going to control the backlash but that will be the case. It’ll be very unfair on the team.
“I’ve always said that we don’t have strong characters in the Meath County Board. For it to be handled right, we needed strong leaders to grab it by the scruff of the neck with serious authority and leadership. That’s what Meath needed and that wasn’t done. Once they made the decision that they didn’t want a replay, the Meath County Board should have backed them and announced accordingly.
“They didn’t and that’s the most disappointing thing for me. I’m also very disappointed with the Leinster Council, which should have taken a stand on it. To leave it to the players and management themselves is wrong. It’s not of their making. It’s a Leinster Council issue but they haven’t got involved to any degree.”
Flynn reiterated he was not opposed personally to the prospect of a re-fixture but empathised with the Meath players and management reluctance to hand back their provincial crown.
He also insisted that action should have been taken swiftly on Monday morning to put the issue to bed.
“Personally I don’t feel it would have been any harm to have a replay,’’ he said. “We could have got a very bad game out of our system, gone to try and win the game and put it behind us. But I’m not involved with the management or one of the players, so it’s easy for me from far away to say it.
“It’s got to the stage now where it’s a bit of a circus. Monday morning was the time to make a decision and move on. It’s a ridiculous situation. It’s gone into Wednesday morning and it’s unfair to Louth, to Meath and to the Meath clubs preparing for championship this weekend. The bottom line is that it was an outrageous decision, daylight robbery and a real travesty of justice.”