TYRONE chairman Ciaran McLaughlin has backed the county’s most high-profile referee, Martin Sludden, to bounce back from his Leinster football final nightmare.
Dromore official Sludden allowed Meath forward Joe Sheridan’s late goal to stand as the Wee County were denied a first Leinster senior title since 1957 at Croke Park on Sunday.
Sludden was confronted by Louth players, management and angryspectators after blowing his finalwhistle and required a Garda escort off the pitch. Sludden later admitted in his official match report that he made a mistake but Meath have held firm and will not be offering Louth a replay.
McLaughlin said: “I didn’t see what happened live but I saw it on The Sunday Game. It was unbelievable and there is no place in Gaelic Games for scenes like that and no place in the GAA for people like that. It’s too early to say how Martin will recover. I’ve spoken to him a couple of times. I know that the people of Louth are suffering but that man admitted his mistake and has taken the brunt of what happened.
“Hopefully he will bounce back – I hope he does but it will take time.”
Meath have been criticised in some quarters for not offering their neighbours a replay but McLaughlin insisted the Royal County shouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place.
He said: “The referee admitted his mistake but the rules that are there don’t allow for a replay. Undue pressure from outside was put on Meath and that was very unfair. Direction should come from a higher authority. The referee’s decision is final and once he allowed the goal, the goal stands.
“The Meath county board did nothing wrong by following the rules.
“Perhaps a rule change is needed for situations like that to be looked atretrospectively, similar to disciplinary incidents. We’ve had the Central Competitions Control Committee coming at us plenty of times and maybe they should start looking at game-changing decisions with goal-line technology. In a high-pressure, high-intensitychampionship match, there has to be some avenue for recourse and action rather than Meath being put under pressure.
“Meath were under no obligation to offer a replay – the rule book is the bottom line. I can’t comment on Meath and their decision as a board and a group of players. But everybody feels bitterly sorry for Louth because they had a first Leinster title in 53 years taken away from them.”
McLaughlin added that the GAA can now explore one of two available avenues – bring in a rule allowing the CCCC to review controversial moments in games or take the radical step of introducing video technology. He said: “It could go one of two ways – add a rule so the CCCC can review inter-county games and have the authority to review a decision if they need to. If that can’t be done, they have to look at the introduction of technology.”
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