LOUTH GAA chiefs yesterday accepted the result of Sunday’s controversial Leinster SFC final but have launched a stinging criticism of the provincial council’s response to the crisis.
From the outset GAA bosses argued that a re-fixture could not have been ordered as “the referee’s report of the full-time score is final”.
However Louth officials described Martin Sludden’s report as “questionable” after he admitted to having made “a terrible mistake” in awarding a goal to Joe Sheridan in the closing seconds, a score which secured the provincial senior title for Meath.
Louth County board contended that: “the committee/council in charge erred in leaving the matter to Meath County Board to offer a replay, without seeking clarification from the referee in relation to his match report after he admitted his error.”
The board also dismissed claims that they were planning to mount a legal challenge against the result of Sunday’s match and vowed “to display leadership on this issue and to move forward to the qualifiers”.
In a statement issued by the PRO Gerry Connor, the Board highlighted a number of areas of concern during the game and it its aftermath.
The statement noted: “(Sludden) indicated in his report that he blew the whistle for a penalty, but then changed his mind and awarded a goal instead, which is contrary to playing rules.
“We also fail to understand why the referee did not consult with both umpires in relation to the goal being awarded, which is also contrary to guidance given to referees in such controversial circumstances. In the light of this and the clear admission in the referee’s report that he ‘made a terrible mistake’, the referee’s report therefore is questionable.”
They also questioned why Meath County Board, and not the provincial council, were forced to decide on the matter of playing a replay or not. “The award of the game rests with the committee/council in charge acting on the referee’s report. We would contend that the committee/council in charge erred in leaving the matter to Meath County Board to offer a replay, without seeking clarification from the referee in relation to his match report and his statement ‘he made a terrible mistake’.
“Despite the fact that there are several avenues open to us to question the result we believe we have a responsibility to our members and supporters alike to display leadership on this issue and to move forward to the qualifiers.
“At no stage did we have a legal representative present at any of our deliberations and we would also like to state that at no stage did we consider legal proceedings on the matter.
“The sense of injustice which is being felt in Louth GAA is enormous. However, the executive committee of the Louth County Board, the senior team management and players have decided to take no further action regarding the outcome.
“We have already condemned the disgraceful scenes which occurred post match and we would reiterate that there is no place for those individuals within our organisation. We wish the Meath players and management every success in their campaign.”
Meanwhile, Meath vice chairman Eugene Comaskey has criticised the GAA for their lack of leadership in the wake of Sunday’s controversial Leinster SFC final.
Royal County chiefs held heated talks on Monday and Tuesday night before opting against offering Louth a replay. However many, including those within the affected counties, were angered by the silence from Croke Park on the matter. Comaskey yesterday called for an urgent review of the GAA rule book to ensure clarity if such situations arise again.
He argued: “We were backed into a corner on this. Initially what was said was that if Meath county board offered a replay, that would be acceptable. But it should never have been left to us to make that decision. The people at the very top should have been giving some direction.
“We need direction from Croke Park now to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again, to clarify all these situations.
“There isn’t any point in somebody saying that they hope to be rescued by a generous gesture by a county board to resolve a situation like that. We have to go by the rule and the rule states that the referee’s report is final.
“No county wants to be put in that position. It’s quite possible it could happen next weekend or the following weekend. Referees are human. They will make a mistake from time to time. This was one of serious magnitude but Central Council and the people at Croke Park will just have to get their heads together and look at this urgently and try to change the rule or rectify something that will maybe prevent something like this happening.
“I don’t know if technology is the answer but we need direction on it. It can’t be left to any individual county. It has to be done at central level,” he told LMFM.
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