Dark clouds cast over Louth's big day in the sun

Mon, Jul 12, 2010, 01:00

A BLACK, cold day for the GAA at Croke Park yesterday. Who would have wanted an ill wind to divert eyes to HQ away from the shindig in South Africa? But that’s what we got, as an illegal injury-time match-winning goal from Meath’s Joe Sheridan – which would have done justice to any of Irish rugby’s golden generation barrelling over the try line – to deny Louth in the Leinster final was followed by ugly and totally unacceptable scenes, which included physical attacks on match referee Martin Sludden.

That Sludden was left totally exposed – bar the presence of a couple of gardaí and, ironically, Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick, who had initially approached the referee to query the awarding of the late, late goal before turning to protector as he fended off a number of Louth supporters who breached the security cordon – has caused serious concerns within the GAA hierarchy, with the possibility of the pitch being fenced off to prevent further post-match encroachments onto the playing surface.

“The treatment of the referee was absolutely disgraceful. We will need a serious review of our security at Croke Park,” said GAA president Christy Cooney. “A course of action might need to be taken against individuals that transgressed security.”

After a tremendously exciting game of football, it’s unfortunate that the on-field exploits – at least until that injury-time winner – will be relegated almost to a postscript. Louth’s sense of injustice was understandable, as television replays clearly showed Sheridan’s goal should not have been allowed. It raises the question of why goal-line technology, akin to that which operates in rugby, should not be introduced as a back-up to the referee. On this point, it would appear, the GAA and Fifa have something in common: they live in the times of the dinosaur.

“It seems to be always the small teams that get screwed with these sort of decisions,” said Louth captain Paddy Keenan, who had been within seconds of steering his side to a first provincial title in over 50 years. “It wouldn’t happen to Meath, it wouldn’t happen to Dublin, it wouldn’t happen to Kerry,” he added.

The decision of Louth manager Fitzpatrick to approach the referee on the pitch was later questioned by the Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna.

“I think there was an issue there with the Louth manager. The Louth manager was in animation with the referee,” said McKenna, who also defended the actions of the gardaí and stewards in getting to the referee’s side in time.

The physical assaults on the referee – which included him being jostled and shouldered by irate Louth supporters – came in tandem with incidents of bottle throwing, with one steward requiring medical treatment.

Louth’s manager claimed in an interview with LMFM radio the defeat was “very hard to swallow”.

FOOTBALL QUALIFIERS

ROUND THREE

DUBLIN v ARMAGH

WEXFORD v CORK

DERRY v KILDARE

OFFALY v DOWN

Dates and venues to be decided today

HURLING

TIPPERARY v OFFALY

DUBLIN v ANTRIM

Dates and venues to be decided today