Respect for hurling referees constantly undermined
If Sunday Game punditry wasn’t bad enough, the GAA’s disciplinary committees have also got in on the act
Another issue which has previously arisen is the attitude to discipline and referees of some of RTÉ’s Sunday Game hurling analysts. “You can’t have the same rules for football as hurling. They were innocuous fouls,” said former Galway manager Cyril Farrell speaking about a couple of double yellows in the minor semi-final. “If you’re going to give yellow cards for a trip in hurling or if you’re going to give yellow cards like Henry Shefflin got for a little tip of the hurl across the hand . . ..”
Farrell is mentioned advisedly, as he was the only panellist to stand up for some sanity in the half-time discussion of last year’s nasty All-Ireland semi-final between Tipperary and Kilkenny. But his criticism of referees sets impossible objectives: obey the rules sometimes and disregard them on other occasions.
“You had the chief of referees McEnaney saying last year, ‘five more players should have been sent off in hurling’. That’s crazy! If you’re going to overrun the game, we’ll have no game of hurling at all.”
“They’re saying it’s for the good of the game. It’s not. Hurling as we know is a physical game. It’s played with a hurl. There are times when you get a belt of a hurl and it’s not a free at all. The way we’ve got the refereeing now we’ll have so many yellow cards, you’re bound to get double yellows.”
He was speaking before the Dublin-Cork match but neither he nor Loughnane commented at half-time on Ryan O’Dwyer’s first yellow card. Again this was a perfectly plausible call by referee James Owens. Co-commentator Michael Duignan said it had been a “late tackle and definite free” but “a harsh yellow card”. In other words it was valid if severe. O’Dwyer’s second yellow was widely accepted.
The Wexford referee was praised for letting the game flow even though his failure to red-card Liam Rushe for a clear striking offence was seen as incorrect and perhaps motivated by leniency towards Dublin. This missed a couple of points.
One was that in his free-flowing administration, Owens was playing too many meaningless advantages in which no foul was awarded but equally, little benefit was likely to accrue to the aggrieved player.
Secondly this was a fabulous hurling match and the principal reason for that was that both sides played with both abandon and good faith so there weren’t going to be too many drawbacks to letting play go. Yet that’s not always the case and anyway, no matter how admirable a match and its spirit it doesn’t guarantee that a red-card offence won’t occur.
How are referees to get everyone else to ‘give respect’ when the committees in charge don’t and RTÉ’s senior pundits advocate dereliction of their primary duty – the upholding of the rules?