The GAA’s national referees development chairman Seán Walsh accepts provocation has become a major issue in Gaelic football but admits it’s not an easy task for match officials to detect.
Walsh says the behaviour of targeting players has been a constant item on the agenda at national referees’ seminars this year, long before this past weekend’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals.
On Saturday, Dublin and Tyrone managers, Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte, claimed Diarmuid Connolly and Seán Cavanagh were targeted by Donegal and Mayo players respectively.
“In all our seminars, which we hold every three weeks, we have directed referees to use the black card when they see provocation,” says Walsh.
“Officials have been directed to bring it to the attention of the referee if they see or hear it but it is quite difficult to see or hear it and who started it. That’s really where the problem lies.”
Walsh maintains the black card is still the most suitable form of punishment for provocation.
“I’m happy with that the black card is the most appropriate penalty. We’re very sure of that.”
However, Mayo coach Tony McEntee claims the verbal and physical abuse in games has dropped considerably in recent years.
“There are less teams at it and less individuals within teams at it.
“The level of abuse is not what it was before. Things have gotten a lot better.”
McEntee repudiates Harte’s claim that Cavanagh was targeted.
“I know there were allegations around Seán Cavanagh being provoked but that was nonsense as far as I am concerned.
“Aidan O’Shea and Michael Murphy are big players and when there is contact to be made they are usually somewhere in there.”
O’Shea yesterday spoke again in favour of two referees to help address the issue and believes he has become better in responding to targeting.
“I maybe would have responded negatively to it a few years ago,” he told sportsjoe.ie’s GAA Hour podcast. “Over the last couple of years I’ve been a bit more experienced.
“Being 6ft4in, you’re only going to be spotted doing something if you do respond very easily compared to the fella, maybe the aggressor.
“So, for me, I see myself smiling back on tape and that’s my defence mechanism: to keep myself intact.”
O’Shea also explained his emotional reaction following the Tyrone win. “I went fairly high after the game.
“There was a lot of stuff personally that people probably don’t know about. A lot of stuff about my personal life over the last while that I’ve had to endure but I kept my peace, kept my bib clean and I haven’t been playing my best.
“I’m not saying the last day I had a massive game but I knew the importance of the game.
“Not that we deserved any respect or that but not even being talked about in regard to winning the game (hurt). Tyrone were this team that were potential All-Ireland champions and maybe dethrone Dublin and we felt that was maybe a wee bit harsh on ourselves.”
Meanwhile, former Dublin footballer Alan Brogan yesterday took aim at Eugene McGee for comments in his Irish Independent column. McGee wrote: “All the great forwards have been targeted by opponents, and it is the same in every other form of football around the world. The vast majority of such players I have seen accept this as the norm and take counter-action, by being restrained, not matching fire with fire, and if they get the chance punishing the targeters by getting more scores and winning for their team.”
Highlighting the above segment from the column, the 2011 footballer of the year tweeted: “Chairman of the football review committee Eugene McGee basically endorsing the targeting of top forwards.
Targeted players should not take action into their own hands.
“But more protection is required.., and comments like ‘stop whinging’ don’t help.”
Brogan’s posts drew a lot of reaction especially from former team-mates and players. Barry Cahill also questioned McGee’s opinion while Kildare’s Johnny Doyle remarked:
“I’d be more disappointed with the sledging. Roaring into a guys face if he kicks a wide isn’t on.”
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