Fitzgerald fears officiating is damaging hurling

Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald has called on officials to look after hurling and to ‘mind’ our ‘great game’, claiming their Croke Park contest was ruined by fussy officiating.

Fitzgerald fears officiating is damaging hurling

Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald has called on officials to look after hurling and to ‘mind’ our ‘great game’, claiming their Croke Park contest was ruined by fussy officiating.

Fitzgerald and Dublin counterpart Mattie Kenny were aghast 50 frees were awarded by Limerick whistler Johnny Murphy in Saturday’s league tie.

The stats alone sum up how a game with relatively little bitterness or rancour was handled: 13 yellow cards, three red cards, all those frees, 1-15 from placed balls. Wexford came out on top to secure their third win from four, outscoring Dublin by 1-5 to 0-2 from the 63rd minute with Jack O’Connor’s 72nd minute goal decisive.

But Fitzgerald admitted there’s ‘very little’ to take from any win in February, aside from the ‘massive resilience’ of his players, and the biggest talking point was the red cards — Wexford duo Conor McDonald and Shaun Murphy along with Dublin’s Eoghan O’Donnell were dismissed.

“We have a great game,” said Fitzgerald. “And it’s important we mind it. In hurling, you can blow for a free every minute or two but it’s important to be sensible. I’m not going to give out right now because there’s no point but I love the game of hurling and we need to be careful.”

Asked if Murphy’s fussy officiating was a one-off or a sign of a GAA mandate to clamp down on fouls, Fitzgerald offered a cryptic response.

“I’m not going to go into what I know exactly... trust me. Let’s just see if anything happens after tonight, that’s all I’ll say.”

Red cards seemed inevitable given all the frees and bookings accumulated throughout the opening three quarters of the game. It was painful viewing for an hour or so with Dublin leading 0-10 to 1-5 at half-time. Of those 16 scores, nine of them, including Mark Fanning’s 31st minute penalty conversion for Wexford, came from placed balls. The first three scores of the second-half all came from frees too in a stop-start game that Dublin looked to be just about in control of. Paul Ryan’s efficient free-taking and a wonder point from Eamonn Dillon left Dublin 0-16 to 1-9 up with 62 minutes played. A game of hurling finally broke out late on as Wexford, who lost McDonald to a straight red for a strike across Paddy Smith in the 54th minute, rose magnificently to the occasion. Rory O’Connor converted three points in a row and brother Jack nailed a terrific stoppage time solo goal that put the Leinster champions into a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Scorers for Wexford: P Morris (0-7, 3 frees, 1 65); R O’Connor (0-4, 1 free); Jack O’Connor and M Fanning (pen) (1-0 each); L Chin (1 free), D O’Keeffe and P Foley (0-1 each).

Scorers for Dublin: P Ryan (0-8, 8 frees); R McBride and R Hayes (1 free) (0-2 each); O O’Rorke (1 free), C Crummey, D Burke, J Madden, E Dillon and C Boland (0-1 each).

WEXFORD: M Fanning; Joe O’Connor, L Ryan, C Firman; D Reck, M O’Hanlon, S Murphy; A Rochford, D O’Keeffe; K Foley, L Chin, R O’Connor; P Morris, M Dwyer, A Nolan.

Subs: P Foley for K Foley (31-h/t, blood); P Foley for O’Hanlon and L Og McGovern for Rochford (h/t); Jack O’Connor for Chin (47); C McDonald for Dwyer (48); Cathal Dunbar for Nolan (69).

DUBLIN: S Brennan; C O’Callaghan, Eoghan O’Donnell, P Smyth; J Madden, D Gray, J Malone; R McBride, S Moran; D Sutcliffe, C Crummey, D Burke; D Keogh, R Hayes, O O’Rorke.

Subs: P Ryan for O’Rorke (14); C Boland for Sutcliffe (43); E Dillon for Keogh (53); A Dunphy for O’Callaghan (58); T Connolly for Madden (62).

Referee:  J Murphy (Limerick)

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