Trust us when we write this: there is enough reason to believe the war waged against Lee Keegan by Dublin GAA figures since the drawn All-Ireland final is a campaign.
Some may see it as shrewd, others desperate, but the words used to paint him in as darkest shade possible before he shadows Diarmuid Connolly again on Saturday weren’t uttered for no reason.
The comments of ex-Dublin stars like Paul Clarke and Ger Brennan have been read by hundreds of thousands but the intended audience was Maurice Deegan and his team of officials. But history would show such pre-game attempts to influence referees don’t always work:
Niall Carew v Donegal, 2011:
The morning of Kildare’s quarter-final against Donegal, a syndicated story quoting the Kildare selector appeared in newspapers.
He said: “It’s all going to come down to the interpretation of the referee. If he lets Donegal continue with the cynical fouling of the opposition half-back line in particular, then yes, they will be hard to break down.
“If he punishes them and hands out yellow cards when they are merited, then we’ll have a chance. We’re well able to move the ball quickly but if Donegal get away with the professional fouls, it will obviously be hard to do that.”
After Donegal won in extra-time, Jim McGuinness took aim at the Kildare management: “Kieran McGeeney was a phenomenal player. He didn’t cry, he didn’t whinge and we weren’t very impressed by that as a group to read that and to see that. We’re happy the referee didn’t take the bait.
“The article was based on cynical fouling. Anybody who watched the match in relation to Kildare players in the last period of extra-time would say there was a lot of cynical fouling.
“My point of view is the referee has a tough job. We all know he has a tough job. But the place to do your business is on the coaching field. Try and beat the opposition there, not in the media.”
James Horan v Dublin, 2012:
Prior to the All-Ireland semi-final, the then Mayo manager was obvious in directing the spotlight onto Joe McQuillan’s relationship with Dublin.
“There’s a lot of commentary out there he is very familiar with the Dublin set-up and he refereed a lot of their A versus B games this year. But, look, we’re happy with the referee appointed.
There’s a review committee there so if there was any questionable decisions they’d review that. We just go with the referees that are there.
“I have a lot of Kerry friends from last year that weren’t too happy with some of his decisions (in the 2011 All- Ireland final) but sin scéal eile.
“The referee has been appointed. The review committee is there to judge referees and that’s not for us to do. I’m sure refereeing A versus B games will have no bearing on his performance against us in Croker.”
Referees chief Pat McEnaney later rubbished the suggestion McQuillan had an intimate relationship with Dublin. Mayo beat Dublin by three points.
Ronan McCarthy v Mayo, 2014:
Ahead of Cork’s quarter-final, Horan received a taste of his own medicine when selector McCarthy, similar to what Ger Brennan said yesterday, mentioned Mayo forwards Cillian O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin were “good at tactical fouling”.
He said: “(They) are good scorers but they’re also key in terms of the little fouls they can commit in a game that go unnoticed but which stop a team’s momentum.” Following Mayo’s one-point win, Horan lashed back: “For us it was taking the integrity of two of our players and of our team and I think it is something that is disgraceful and they should be ashamed of what they done. Does that make victory sweeter for us? It probably does. I just think it is a new low when you have opposition management naming specific players and taking their integrity and their good name. We have coaches and we coach and we try and play as well as we can all the time within the rules of the game. They (Brian Cuthbert and McCarthy) will face the Cork public after that, but we are happy with where we are.”
Jim McGuinness v Mayo, 2013:
McGuinness may have accused McGeeney of dirty tricks but he himself has been no slouch when it’s comes to whispering in a referee’s ear. Three years ago before an All-Ireland quarter-final, he claimed his team had suffered four concussions in their three previous games and mentioned the required duty of care to his players and the third-man tackles on men like Michael Murphy: “This is a common theme at the moment.”
Days later, Horan responded in kind: “Donegal and their backroom team, they’re competitive, they’re All-Ireland champions. Anything that’ll give them an advantage, they’ll try. Last year, they mastered many new skills and brought football to a different level on many fronts… particularly in the area around physicality. They really ratcheted that up last year and put a lot of teams to the sword based on their strength, power and tackling. I don’t know if any of ye have been at the end of a Michael Murphy tackle recently, but there’s serious, serious physicality in that team. So they’ve been the leaders on that front.” Mayo were victors by eight points.
Conor McCarthy v Kerry, 2015:
McCarthy is now the Cork footballers’ sport psychologist but writing for this newspaper last year he was accused in Kerry of trying to persuade Deegan ahead of the Munster final replay.
He had written about Kerry as being “genetically cute”: “Before the throw-in, Kieran Donaghy when at full-forward can often be seen going to each umpire in a very deliberate and deferential manner to shake their hands. Umpires are fans first and foremost. It would take a strong mind not to be influenced by such charisma.”
He added about Deegan: “He is not prone to easy persuasion and will not buckle to hometown pressure, but sometimes it can be an unconscious manipulation.”
Kerry won the game by five points.
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