‘Verbals’ not being ignored, says Seán Walsh

Pictured at the Connacht championship launch at Claremorris, Co. Mayo were: Galway captain Paul Conroy, London captain Martin Carroll, Roscommon captain Niall Carty, Mayo captain Keith Higgins, Sligo captain Mark Breheny and Leitrim captain Sean McWeeney.

The chairman of the national referees development body insists the policing of verbal intimidation is not being ignored by match officials.

Ahead of his first meeting with the 30-strong referees championship panels at Croke Park today, Seán Walsh says verbal intimidation hasn’t been raised by a single match official he has encountered since taking up the new post last month.

‘To threaten or to use abusive or provocative language or gestures to an opponent or team-mate’ merits a black card, according to the GAA rule-book and Walsh rejects claims referees are ignoring this section.

The Tipperary U21 football camp accused the Tyrone players of ‘verbals’ during last Saturday’s All-Ireland decider, manager Tommy Toomey expressing disappointment that not a single Red Hand footballer was carded for their off-the-ball behaviour.

“The rules are there to tidy it up. If they’re not working, well, what can you do?” said Toomey.

Without reacting specifically to Saturday’s game, Walsh stressed he would take very seriously incidences where referees have turned a blind eye to verbal intimidation.

“We would feel very disappointed if any of the rules were not being implemented. In relation to those comments, I don’t want a knee-jerk reaction just to one match,” said the former Kerry and Munster chairman.

“There are situations that come up at different times and they will be the debate of the week. The policing of provocative language is the debate of this week. We would, as a committee and a referees body, be very disappointed if it was going on and wasn’t policed. We would take that seriously. I definitely don’t believe referees to be ignoring it.

“Verbals or provocative language hasn’t been discussed in any of our discussions to date. We are meeting the full championship panels this weekend. I am not sure if it is going to come up, but at the moment it hasn’t come up as something [referees] are ignoring or they see as a big issue.

“We have met the president and the Ard Stiúrthóir. It wasn’t raised then, either.”

Walsh continued: “The rule was brought in because it was felt there was a need for it. If there is provocative language taking place during a match, referees are duty bound to referee accordingly and give a black card to the player in question. We won’t be taking lightly the situations we know that have happened and have been ignored, especially if we are presented with proof it has been ignored.”

Walsh believes linesman and umpires can do more in eradicating incidences of verbal intimidation.

“We have probably more people at our matches officiating by comparison with any other sport. They are all duty bound to help the referee. Anything happening contrary to the rule-book and away from the referee’s attention, they are duty bound to alert the referee.”

Meanwhile, Leinster officials insist Galway’s non-attendance at Wednesday’s Leinster GAA launch was not linked to last November’s Leinster Council decision to vote down the westerners’ bid for full integration into the province.

There was no Galway player or management personnel present at Farmleigh House and speculation was rife the Tribes had snubbed the event.

But Leinster PRO Pat Teehan explained: “The invitation went out to John Hynes, secretary of the Galway County Board. John was in New York at the time, with the Galway footballers.

“Anthony Cunningham said he would attend even though he got late notice. He rang on Wednesday morning to say he couldn’t go.

“There was no question of a snub or anything like that, it had nothing to do with what happened last year.”

Teehan continued: “Antrim were also invited, but I don’t think they have ever attended.

“The distance, I believe, is the main factor there. Most of their players are up around Ballycastle. It is a long way to travel down.”


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