Former Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice believes it would be wrong if Meath referee David Gough is nominated by the GAA to handle next month’s All-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry.
Gough and his fellow Meath man David Coldrick are considered favourites to get the nod for the September 1 decider, when Dublin will be bidding for an historic fifth All-Ireland title in a row. But the fact that Gough lives and works in the capital should disqualify him from consideration, believes Fitzmaurice.
Guesting on this week’s Irish Examiner GAA podcast, Fitzmaurice disagreed with former referee Brian Gavin in yesterday’s Examiner that it would be wrong to overlook Gough.
“I think it’s an injustice if he does get the game,” said the Finuge man. “I am not going to be dictating here who I feel should get the game, but a final referee has to be a neutral referee.
"Living and working in Dublin, you are not neutral. If you are living there, you are meeting people in the shop, at work, down the street."
“Of course when David Gough goes out to referee a match he is trying to be neutral and impartial, I am not questioning that, but it can’t be fair that if you are living and working in a place, that you get to referee an All-Ireland final involving that county.
“It’s tough on him, he is a very good referee, and Dublin are there every year. (But) I do genuinely think from his own perspective, there’s huge pressure on him. I wouldn’t look on it as punishing him. If you live and work in a place it rules you out. It’s very hard in that instance. If Kerry get a couple of calls (in the final), he is going to have a miserable winter listening to Dubs telling him he denied them the five in a row.”
Fitzmaurice was Kerry manager for the epic All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin in 2016, when a crucial late hit from Dublin’s Kevin McManamon on Peter Crowley was missed by Gough, denying Kerry a free to potentially level the game in the last minute.
Gough apologised for the error afterwards - “I know I got it wrong. I didn’t get it wrong on purpose, I just didn’t see it” he said - but Fitzmaurice says it was one of several “wrong calls” from him on the day. “I don’t think he has refereed a Dublin-Kerry game since.”
However, Cork manager Ronan McCarthy, also on the Examiner GAA podcast, countered by insisting: “I think he is an outstanding referee, I really do. He did our (first Super 8) game against Dublin and you can always have a whinge. Dublin got a goal, it was 30 seconds over the allotted first-half injury time, but we didn’t defend it properly and we should have seen it out to half time. He’s a top referee, you pick your top refs for a game of this stature and I feel should be in the mix for it.”
Added podcast host and former Kerry midfielder Mike Quirke: “If there was a Cork referee living and working in Kerry, he wouldn’t get an All-Ireland final involving Kerry, and I think that probably knocks it on the head for David.”
McCarthy said that generally speaking, the biggest referee frustration for him as a current inter-county manager is the inconsistencies from game to game, and official to official.
“I am thinking of the Mayo Donegal match, and again on Saturday in the first half of Dublin-Mayo, the level of contact, the way the game was let flow. There’s real inconsistency in terms of what frees are being given for and that’s throughout the championship. That’s a real frustration from a management point of view. With certain referees you don’t actually know what qualifies as a free. There’s an inconsistency in the application of the advantage rule and the time that’s being allowed for it to go on. It’s a very difficult job, but it’s fair to make a general point about the inconsistency in what frees are given for. It’s chalk and cheese some of the matches.”
Said Fitzmaurice: “I think the more that’s going on, and the more physical it is, the more the referee tends to let it flow because he almost has to. There’s so much going on, he is thinking ‘if I am pulling this and that etc, I could be here all day. Dublin-Mayo games have been classics because there‘s bedlam everywhere. They have to let it go.”
Fitzmaurice also name-checked Monaghan referee Martin McNally, as one to watch for the future. He handled the Galway-Kerry All-Ireland MFC semi-final on Sunday and was on top of everything while also letting the game flow, and being clear on advantages. “I made a mental note that we could see him again in the future.”