Fitzgerald says referees being put under undue pressure
Wexford manager believes Ryan’s dismissal against Limerick had a ‘massive bearing on the game’
Limerick’s Seamus Flanagan tangles with Wexford duo Liam Ryan and Shaun Murphy at Wexford Park. Ryan and Flanagen both received red cards. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Not for the first time Davy Fitzgerald has stirred some debate about exactly how hurling referees are approaching the game, for better or for worse, suggesting they are being put under pressure “to clamp down on anything remotely like a dangerous tackle”.
Fitzgerald may not be speaking on behalf of all hurling managers, although this there was more general agreement in the aftermath of the opening round of the Allianz Hurling League.
Wexford and Limerick both had a player sent off in the 27th minute of their Division 1A clash, the All-Ireland champions narrowly prevailing in the end. Limerick full forward Séamus Flanagan and opposing full back Liam Ryan were both red-carded after referee Fergal Horgan had sorted out a sideline fracas which flamed after an initial altercation between the pair .
On Saturday night in Thurles, Clare’s Tony Kelly was also red-carded in the 46th minute in their game against Tipperary, for a high tackle on Paudie Maher. Both managers suggested afterwards it was entirely accidental, including Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy.
“All I feel is, even from talking to a few of the referees, there is a big thing to clamp down on anything remotely like a dangerous tackle,” said Fitzgerald.
“I just feel the referees are being put under pressure, ‘we have to take action, we have to do this’. Unless it is very bad, fine. We know what the difference is between a bad tackle and a very dangerous one. We have got to make that [distinction].
“You are kind of putting the referees a small bit on edge. Let’s pull back off them a small but, let’s let them referee it as they see it. Last year was one of the best years we ever had for hurling, why are trying to change. Let them off.”
Although Wexford came close to upsetting the All-Ireland champions, losing out 1-17 to 2-11, Fitzgerald suggested Ryan was a bigger loss to them, given his central position in defence.
“The sending off had a massive bearing on the game because you are taking two bodies out of that side of the field. The last thing you want is for the Limerick forwards to have more space. Because it took two more bodies out of that area. If you are a forward, you want space. We want more bodies there to make it harder for them.”
Last week, the GAA’s referees development chairperson, Willie Barrett, hinted at a couple of issues he felt hurling referees needed to give greater attention to over the course of the Allianz Hurling League. In an interview with RTÉ, Barrett highlighted both the open handpass and challenges to the head as in need of further attention by referees in the hurling league.
“I have had a lot of contact from people in relation to the handpass,” he said. “The striking of the ball with the hand has to be clear cut. You have to make a judgement. Is it clear or is it not? I will be asking referees to be vigilant on that one. We believe that a number of handpasses are not legal.”
Challenges to the head, he added, or the upper part of the body, in a manner that is dangerous to an opponent, must be “dealt with strongly with a red card”.
Limerick manager John Kiely also commented on the sending off of both players in more muted tones.
“These incidents by the side of the pitch where they go up against the fence, the pitches are narrow and there is not an awful lot of space there. And it is just a pity the incident happened, there was no need for it to happen but it did. We were down a player as a result, they are going to miss next week’s game and that is a loss. But it is what it is and we can’t undo it and we just have to move on.”
Kiely was satisfied with the result, fielding 12 of his All-Ireland winning team, with positive news on those missing on the day.
“We have a lot of lads back training, Kyle Hayes is back training, David Reidy is back doing a bit, Mikey Casey is back training, Adrian Breen is back. They are all back doing full training, it is just getting a bit of work into them. We will just come back training on Tuesday night and prepare again for Saturday [against Tipperary].
“We won’t be holding back and all the counties are the same way. People are talking about a soft approach to this year’s league, with no relegation, that’s nonsense. Every team is going out to win their matches, to get as many competitive games as they can under their belt before summer.”