Little sympathy in Meath camp


HAVING BENEFITED from Martin Sludden’s decision – the most extraordinary refereeing error since Jimmy Cooney whistled up early 12 years ago – Meath manager Eamon O’Brien was understandably tentative at the press conference following yesterday’s explosive conclusion to the Leinster final.

Asked about the winning goal that wasn’t, he sounded a bit rattled, not having had the chance to review the clear video evidence.

“I can’t say and I’m not commenting. I can comment, as I said to RTÉ, that loads of decisions were made during the game that didn’t go our way. I can recall three or four balls that were blown for picking off the ground that I didn’t think were off the ground. Nigel Crawford was booked up here and Louth got a point off it. The game goes for 70 minutes, decisions are made and you live with it. That’s it, that’s the way I see it.”

Team captain Crawford, veteran of the last Leinster win in 2001 and the only player left from the last Meath All-Ireland win 11 years ago, made a considered observation: “I’m sure most players have been involved in controversial situations like that where you get calls for replays and things like that happening, but I just don’t think it’s possible or I just don’t think it can happen.

“If you start that, where do you end up? Do we go back and say the ball wasn’t on the ground when we touched it and they got a free or whatever?

“It’s just very unfortunate that it happens in a high-profile game right at the end of a game to a team that hasn’t won in a long time. It’s just a very unfortunate situation.”

Speaking on LMFM, Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick, who didn’t attend the press conference, took a predictably different line.

“It’s hard to swallow. I don’t mean this to sound like sour grapes, but Meath came back and got the goal in the end. I just think it’s a disgraceful decision by the referee. I thought he threw the ball in the net.

“I went to the referee and I said why did you give the goal? He said ‘c’mon with me to the dressingroom’. He explained he was going to give a penalty. I said, if you were going to give a penalty why didn’t you give a penalty? Why didn’t you consult your umpires? Aaron Hoey asked him to consult the umpires and he told the umpire to put the flag up. What is the point in having umpires? We put a big effort in, did very well.

“A draw would have been a fair result. It’s just very sore the way things finished off in the end. What really annoys me, you see the CCCC chasing up what’s a yellow or red cards.

“I honestly thought he was Dick Turpin without a mask. It was pure daylight robbery. I’m very, very annoyed. The effort we put in was fantastic three points down.”

Another equally predictable perspective on the goal came from the accredited scorer, Joe Sheridan, although his testimony would struggle to convince even the most credulous jury.

“It was well-worked and it was a definite goal. People are saying I threw it in, but I was heading for the line and I just dropped the ball and it was in the net. I got it and the lad just pushed me into the net.

“I tried to do whatever I could to hit it and the goal was given, simple as that.

“I was pushed in over the line so it should have been a penalty anyway. I think it was a perfect goal.”