GAA referees come under strong criticism at Cork convention

The standard of refereeing at inter-county level came in for strong criticism at yesterday’s annual Cork County Board convention in Pairc Uí Chaoimh, with the allegation that there is now "a serious lack of application" of the rules.

It came from Aghada delegate John Motherway, who was the county’s referee administrator for the past 10 years and reflected the view of secretary Frank Murphy in his annual report where he confessed “to not being entirely happy” with current standards.

In his view, there are far too few referees at top level — “albeit in the main of good standard.”

And he expressed the view the reduction of referees at this level was “neither necessary nor advisable.”

John Motherway, who was involved at Munster Council level for five years, entered the debate by responding to a comment from Killeagh delegate Junior Scully that clubs in the county should be protected from “inferior” refereeing.

He countered by saying the standard in Cork was “probably” higher than in most counties.

“Everything a referee wants to know is available in the referees handbook and with any interpretation of a rule that is required, there is only one body with that responsibility and that is the Central Council. Unfortunately for the past three years we have deviated from that at national level and referees are being ill-advised on interpretation of rules, which I would respectfully suggest, is an interpretation of convenience to suit the occasion.

“We need to get back to the real interpretation of rules and I take the interpretation of one rule as a case in point. If you show dissent with a referee’s decision, the ball has to be moved 13 metres to a more advantageous position. Look at games at inter-county level and ask how many metres is that ball being moved — anything between 20 and 30 metres!”

Munster Council vice-chairman Jerry O’Sullivan responded to a comment made by Millstreet delegate Jerry Doody that “Cork and Kerry were meeting too often” in the provincial junior club football championship, saying there was absolutely no question of the draw being “fixed”.

Doody referred to his club’s Munster game away to Brosna and argued games should be played at neutral venues. He stated that Cork teams had been away to Kerry clubs three times in recent years in the championship. “We have no issue with Brosna, their facilities were second to none, but it does give you an advantage playing at home.”

He also questioned the ‘gradings’ in Cork, relative to other counties, saying that the junior ‘A’ championship in Cork was the fourth in the county. His suggestion was that the intermediate championship should be classified as ‘super junior’ and that the winners should be able to represent the county in the provincial junior championship.

Making a case for the development of hurling in west Cork, Clonakilty delegate Tommy Lyons was critical of the board decision not to allow the Carbery team which won the Premier minor championship to compete in the county U21 championship next year.

In response, Bob Ryan said the club could make an application to the CCCC (Central Competitions Control Committee) Board but the decision had been made for good reasons and he doubted if it would be changed.

John Corcoran (St Mary’s) called for a review of the organisation of the U21 championship in the county, reminding delegates that Cork have not won the All-Ireland title in this grade since 1998.

John Twomey (Carrigdoun) said it should be a matter of concern that of the six Cork teams which competed in the Munster club championships, only one game in hurling and two in football were won. Stressing he was not critical of their representatives, he pointed out the board had spent over €4.5m on county teams and coaching and development over the last two years.

“You would be wondering that things should be better,” he commented. “There is something wrong. My own view is that we are not producing the great club players any more. If we were, team managers would not need to be trawling the county looking for players as they do now.”

Pearse Murphy made an impassioned appeal for greater support for the county draw, agreeing with John Twomey that money accruing from current investments would have to be used to fund the redevelopment of the stadium. He pointed out that the board was spending €300,000 annually on coaching and games development and no club was levied.

Bob Ryan reassured delegates that there is no question of a levy being put on clubs when it comes to paying off the debt on the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, pointing out that they will be selling various ticket schemes.

“There are people out there who say we are loaded and I have a very clear message for those people. Every penny we get we spend on our own clubs, our own facilities and our own teams. It’s all very well spent and all very well accounted for.”

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