KIERAN McGEENEY has rarely been shy about offering his opinions on referees but the Kildare manager actually spoke up for the game’s officials yesterday by claiming that some of football’s rules are impossible to implement.
Kildare have exited the championship in August the last three years in a row. All have been by a goal or less and have been under the watch of Pat McEnaney, who is widely regarded as the game’s finest whistler.
McGeeney may not agree. The former Armagh manager is of the opinion that McEnaney has been “harsh” on Kildare in those ties and memories of Benny Coulter’s goal in this year’s semi-final go some way towards backing that up.
“People say I don’t probably get the rub of the green from referees because I am always giving out about them,” said McGeeney yesterday. “They are not infallible either. Every week I give out about them and so do players.
“It is about time people realised they are part of a structure. I feel for them because they are trying to implement rules I think are impossible to implement. The four-step rule, the tackle, there are four or five particular rules that people will say are enshrined.
“That is why you have to feel for some referees. In fairness to Pat, he tries to play the game the way he feels it should be played. He is trying to apply the rules and the problem is that sometimes you apply it one way and you don’t apply it the next time.”
What followed was a brief discussion on one of those rules – the tackle – which would be impossible to condense without the use of pictures and captions as well as a more straightforward discussion on the championship itself.
Kildare were one of four counties to reach the All-Ireland semi-final through the back door in 2010 and the premature downfall of all the provincial champions led to serious introspection and hand-wringing.
McGeeney laughs when he hears mention of that. No-one took to the streets demanding a radical overhaul of the All-Ireland when his Armagh side was stacking up Ulster titles and Croke Park defeats with equal abandon.
“That’s the system you are in. It is a better system because you have more games. The level of success in competition is always hard to measure because you only measure it by cups. That is the way inter-county football is going.
“Look at what John Evans has achieved in Tipperary or Kevin Walsh in Sligo. That is probably a greater sense of achievement in management than what the top teams have if you have a good squad to begin with.
“Bringing teams up through two or three divisions and then being competitive in the championship, it doesn’t sell newspapers, but people have to be realistic on what success is and what is achieved by certain managers and by certain counties.
“The GAA is changing hugely and has done so over the last 10 years. Counties are becoming more autonomous in their nature. They are likes businesses. There are two entities to counties, the financial entity and the development side.
“Probably three actually, you have the elite side which is inter-county, then you have the grassroots and all three have to be intertwined and interdependent on each other.
“The GAA is doing a good job. The level of football is going up despite some of our past players thinking that nobody played as well as they did. The game is in a healthy state. We just have to sort out some of the decision making and we will be flying.”
McGeeney probably can’t do much about the wider issues facing the association and the game of football but he has certainly raised standards in Kildare with whom he has pledged himself until 2013. Anthony Rainbow has called time on his 20-year inter-county career since their defeat to Down but McGeeney expects men like Dermot Earley – who has a knee operation on Friday – and Johnny Doyle to be back in harness for 2011.
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