Babs Keating has lambasted the current standard of inter-county hurling refereeing, describing Johnny Murphy’s officiating of last Saturday’s Dublin-Wexford game as “the worst I’ve ever seen”.
Tipperary’s two-time All-Ireland-winning manager previously used the same description for Brian Gavin’s refereeing when his team drew with Limerick in the second game of their Munster SHC semi-final trilogy 13 years ago.
However, Keating argued Limerick man Murphy’s administering of the Division 1, Group B clash in Croke Park was a new low. “What I saw in Croke Park last Saturday evening was the worst I’ve ever seen, and I mean that.
“Everything that happened, the best way I could describe it was Pat Shortt’s Killinaskully programme because what went on you wouldn’t see it in that show. To think that Wexford had a mentor that was able to bring in a ball every time Lee Chin got a free… the yellow cards, the penalty he gave against Dublin was disgraceful.
“I walked away from management because we had a referee (Gavin) who gave 16 decisions against us the day we drew with Limerick. The first game, the referee blackguarded us. This discussion has come up over and over again — but last weekend was the worst.
“And then when you hear Kieran Kingston speaking on (RTÉ’s) League Sunday last Sunday night, coming out strong enough to say more or less that the referee destroyed the game (in Páirc Uí Chaoimh). They are fooling themselves if they think this is going to continue.”
Former dual star Keating’s ire is not reserved for referees alone but umpires too.
He recalled Joe Kernan and himself put forward the idea of resident umpires to a GAA committee in the 2000s but nothing came of it.
“What happened Waterford down in Limerick a year and a half ago (ghost goal) was probably the most disgraceful thing that ever happened in the GAA. There are too many incidents with umpires. When you see umpires in Croke Park looking for HawkEye, and the ball either a yard wide or a yard inside, you ask yourself, ‘What would you be doing bringing those umpires to Portlaoise or Limerick, where there’s no HawkEye?’
“Joe and myself came up with a suggestion that umpires should be picked by the venue. I know if I asked the county secretary and chairman in Tipperary to pick four good umpires for Thurles, to be resident there, I know they would pick four fellas as sharp as razors. In a scenario where Tipperary were playing Cork in Thurles, then you go to Limerick or Kilkenny for the four umpires.
“If they made a mistake or if there was a doubt over them, they’d be gone. As a manager, I’m given the responsibility of managing Tipperary in the way the game should be played, and if I don’t then I’m gone. If I’m a player and I don’t perform, I’m gone. But referees or umpires are never gone.”
Keating also highlighted how Limerick were denied a 65 in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final to Kilkenny when Darragh O’Donovan’s sideline cut deflected off Cillian Buckley’s hurley.
“What happened to Limerick in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, to think the linesman wasn’t 10 yards away from where the line ball was taken, and it basically put Limerick out of the final.”
He also doesn’t appear to favour the black card/sin-bin motion for hurling set to be voted on at Congress this weekend. “I go back to my days as manager, with Theo English and Donie Nealon, they had five All-Irelands each and I had three. Our rules were that the game was to be played properly. Before all the big games, we always met on the Saturday night and we devoted three-quarters of an hour to discipline. The players wearing a Tipperary jersey were not to do anything wrong — and they knew it.”
Keating reiterated his belief the sliotar remains too light. “The hurling ball is doing no favours for anybody, a hurling ball travelling 120 yards, you’d have twice the game if the ball went 80-85 yards. You’d have more play, you’d have a more enjoyable game for everybody because there’s a generation of people who cannot even see the ball. That’s the first thing that has to change.”