GAA director general Tom Ryan said at the launch of his annual report in Croke Park that it was correct for the association to follow its procedures rather than make special provision for an All-Ireland final or issue statements about the controversy.
He was responding to questions about the recent club football final between Kilmacud Crokes and Glen, which has been ordered to a replay because of an extra player fielded by the Dublin champions in the last minute of the match, which they won by two points.
Asked might the GAA have intervened a bit sooner given the importance and high profile of the match, Ryan said that all such issues should be treated in the same way.
“No is the answer because to my mind if you are playing junior D football in west Kerry or you’re an All Star hurler in north Antrim, it’s the same disciplinary system.
From Crossmaglen to Croke Park, the two old friends set to face off as rival managers in Division Four final
From Fraher Field to Croke Park - how a small band of Derry supporters kept the faith in Division Four
“People are entitled to have the same right of reply to it, irrespective of how good you are or what level you are playing at, or if it’s club or county. Also, that competition started out with a normal disciplinary regime attached to it in the first round of the various county championships across the country.
[ Ciarán Murphy: No hiding possible from Kilmacud/Glen controversy ]
[ Kilmacud Crokes set to appeal CCCC ruling that All-Ireland final should be replayed ]
[ Anatomy of a controversy: How Kilmacud Crokes ended up with 16 men on the field ]
“It’s appropriate that the same regime would apply at the pinnacle of it as well. I wouldn’t be in favour of a two-tier, or a multiple-tier disciplinary system based on how good players are.”
Both the director general and the president, Larry McCarthy, had been asked whether the controversy could have been handled better. McCarthy played a straight bat, insisting that the matter was now still in process with Kilmacud set to take the case to the Central Appeals Committee.
“The process is in place, let it work itself out. Any comments at this stage would be inappropriate.”
It was put to him that the core problem in the controversy, the regulation of substitutes – Kilmacud brought on a replacement before the 16th player departed – was something that could be reviewed by the GAA.
“It could yeah,” he replied.
Ryan also said that the communication of issues involved had been well delivered by the media – in response to questioning about the information gap that opened up in the immediate aftermath of the match.
“It was clearly set out for people. A lot of the comments were – I won’t stray into it, Larry! – the facts were already out there. You [media] had done a good job in explaining how the system would work. I don’t really think it helps matters too much for me to dive in.
“Peter [McKenna, Croke Park stadium manager] used the phrase tennis match there, in terms of how people are interpreting something and how it should work. The worst thing we could possibly do and I have seen this mentioned in dispatches, this idea that the GAA should step in, and there is a kind of deficit there and the GAA should step in and intervene.
“I have never, ever picked up the phone to the chair or anybody in the CCCC to say Derek [Kent, chair] ‘this is the way I want this to go’. I have never done that. I will never do that.
“Any suggestion that, implied or explicit, that we should have been directing something, that’s completely wrong.
“To the extent that people don’t get that, that’s okay. It’s a pity but certainly I don’t think it would have added to things certainly much if we came out and reinforced the message that you had already communicated very well in terms of how the thing has to play out.
“The safest thing that we could do is abide by a process that works. We should be really careful not to obviously intervene, but not to undermine that process either.”