GAA President Christy Cooney has broken his silence on the controversial Leinster SFC final between Meath and Louth admitting he would have liked to have seen the game replayed.
He went on to describe the chaotic scenes at the final whistle as a “watershed” for the Association which may have long term implications for the organisations.
The game ended with outraged Louth supporters assaulting referee Martin Sludden on the Croke Park pitch for awarding a late goal to Meath’s Joe Sheridan which earned provincial honours for the Royal County. TV replays showed that Sheridan had thrown the ball over the line. The GAA authorities had attracted criticism for failing to offer leadership on the issue, with the onus falling on the Meath panel and county board to decide whether or not a replay should be given. Last night Cooney defended Croke Park’s handling of the matter and again insisted their hands were tied.
“It would be fair to say that we would have all liked to have seen a replay. Meath decided otherwise.
“Within rule there was no other avenue for us to go; no other avenue for the Leinster council to take.”
Cooney expressed outrage at the actions of a minority of supporters who ran onto the pitch and attacked Sludden in the dramatic minutes after the game. “We’re responsible in the end to show an appropriate punishment to people who have belittled our Association and who have transgressed in a serious way with the actions they took against our officials on the day, and ban them from our Association as would be the appropriate action.
“I think last Sunday was a watershed for our Association, to see in an undignified way the behaviour that took place after the game, and it reinforces now – to everybody – that we need to ensure that patrons stay off our pitch at the end of matches, that we need to do our presentations in the middle of the field, and we need to give our players and officials the opportunity to leave the field in dignity and to celebrate in dignity,” he told RTÉ.
He re-iterated that Croke Park acted correctly in the wake of the crisis.
“I believe we have acted very responsibly since the event took place last Sunday. I believe we gave appropriate advice to the Leinster council. We gave appropriate advice to both Meath and Louth on how to deal with the matter and I was quite surprised to hear and to read some of the comments that came from both counties.
“I don’t believe there was any lack of support. Croke Park weren’t in a position to make any decision on this. All we could do was offer support and advice. The match was under the jurisdiction of the Leinster council.”
He added, that as President, he was powerless. “I can’t tear up a rulebook and make any decision that I want as President. That’s not possible.
“Last Sunday’s circumstances were bizarre. I have never seen circumstances like it as long as I have been a member of this Association. Will I ever see them again as long as I live? Maybe not in my lifetime.
“Do we need to make massive changes? Do we need to throw out our rulebook? Do we need a rush of blood and change things immediately? Of course not.
“We need to give it some thought, and we need to do what’s right. We need to take time to consider it.”
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