TALK about much ado about nothing.
After a day packed with conjecture and a night pockmarked by meetings — open and private — in and around the town of Navan, Monday finally ended without a decision emanating from Meath as to whether Louth would be offered a replay of the Leinster SFC final.
The Meath senior football panel did meet and it is believed they voted in favour of offering a re-fixture after Sunday’s incredible end game in Croke Park but it is understood that manager Eamonn O’Brien and chairman Barney Allen were opposed to that idea.
The much-hyped monthly meeting of the county board was delayed for over an hour last night while the county executive mulled over the fallout of the weekend’s game and what their next step might be.
As it turned out, their next step was to stand still.
When Allen and the rest of the officers finally emerged, it was another half an hour before the meeting got around to addressing the one issue everyone wanted to hear about but the result was deeply unsatisfactory.
“We have discussed a lot of things but the Management Committee has made no decision,” said Allen from the top table. “We want a bit of time as we discuss other matters on it.”
And that was that.
Time is fast running out for any possible re-fixture. It is believed that Croke Park requires notification of any possible rescheduled game by midday today for logistical reasons but that, clearly, will not happen now.
A full round of local senior club championship fixtures is still on the agenda in Meath next weekend as things stand, which doesn’t bode well for Louth, while the Meath county executive has decided to meet yet again tonight.
Croke Park and Leinster Council officials had kept a low profile all day yesterday as the ball was left in Meath’s court but the indication from both was that they would welcome any sign that Sunday’s winners were willing to do it all over again.
Indeed, association spokesman Alan Milton told RTÉ’s ‘Morning Ireland’ that such a course of action would be appropriate “in the spirit of the game” but that it was a matter for Meath and no-one else to decide.
The onus had grown on the Meath board all day to echo the decision made by their Laois counterparts 15 years ago when the midland county defeated Carlow with the aid of a late disputed point and agreed to play the game again.
However, a number of observers in Meath — as well as in Louth and beyond — made the point that it was unfair on Meath to have such a responsibility thrust upon them after the Delaney Cup had been raised aloft and the medals pocketed.
The GAA itself was never going to grasp that nettle.
Had association chiefs ordered a replay they knew only too well that it would have opened a can of worms, one with the potential for a slew of similarly heartfelt cries from sides with perceived injustices.
Much was made of the fact that the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) was meeting yesterday afternoon but the disciplinary body does not possess the authority to authorise a rematch under such circumstances.
The GAA did confirm yesterday that the referee’s report had been received and that, while Martin Sludden had accepted his mistake in awarding the Meath goal, a re-fixture could not be ordered as the referee’s report of the full time score was final.
Mick Curley, chairman of the National Referees’ Committee, had already indicated as much earlier in the day when he was asked if the Tyrone official could view the TV footage and change the report.
“The thing about is that it is recommended to referees that they should not look at footage after a game and before sending in their report. They send in their report on the basis of the decision that they made at a particular time in a game, right or wrong.
“That was the decision that was made and the report should show in its entirety that it was on what they actually saw at the time that the decision was made. They are discouraged from looking at it afterwards on TV and before they make their report. The report is based on what they saw.”
Meanwhile, GAA chairman Pádraig O’Connor has called on the GAA to incorporate the use of TV replays into the rule book to prevent a repeat of the controversial goal which handed Meath victory last Sunday.
Recourse to video evidence of any kind has been opposed by many on the basis that it would slow down games and dilute the authority of the officials but O’Connor believes those arguments no longer cut any ice.
“I believe that, in this technology world we live in, the GAA needs to start showing a lead by using technology to resolve these situations. We are living in the past if we don’t.”
The Louth board initially decided to keep their counsel on Sunday evening but O’Connor, speaking on LMFM radio, revealed that the manner of the defeat was “devastating” and that the cup had been “stolen” from them.
“Football is important. The rules and the way we play our matches are important and there is a bigger question here,’’ he said.
“There were 25-30,000 Louth fans and a squad of 30 and Fitzer and his backroom team.
“If we had been beaten by 10 points we would walk away and say the best team won and, in fairness, Meath did win officially but it has to be seen to work. The bigger moral picture is: was natural justice served? I don’t believe it was.”
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