At the beginning of this month the Cork county board released a statement, not unusual you might say, but this statement had a bit of a twist and for the most part, it was not something you might expect to come from such a body.
The statement was to thank their football manager Brian Cuthbert for his contribution to the GAA in Cork for the last few years. I think they felt the need to defend their ex-manager because of the level of criticism from the media in the aftermath of the Rebel county’s defeat to Kildare.
The County Board were showing, I suppose, a bit of loyalty to a manager who has given a lot of time, energy and commitment in his role. However, in defending the performance of the manager, they suggested that only for a poor refereeing decision in the Munster final, their year could have turned out differently. That point of view, while it might be discussed by the media or supporters, is not generally disclosed by administrators, especially in public.
While I agree that the decision definitely changed the course of the game and it did cost Cork a Munster title on that day, after that they should have had no excuses. There was something not right with Cork in the replay and Kerry seized their opportunity. And as for the Kildare game, Cork were just poor and to use the decision of Padraig Hughes as the reason for not having a better year is taking it a bit too far.
However, I do agree that the penalty decision that Hughes made in the first Munster final certainly changed the course of the game and when you look back on the incident you cannot help but feel aggrieved for the Cork manager and players. But these decisions go on year after year and nothing seems to be done to improve the standard of match officials.
We had the same last Sunday in the All Ireland semi final between Kerry and Tyrone with Kerry getting the best of any fifty-fifty calls going. On a number of calls, especially the decision to book Tyrone substitute Padraig McNulty for diving when it looked clearly as if he was fouled. If the same incident happened out the field would McNulty not be given a free? And if it wasn’t a foul why did the referee think that McNulty was the only player on the field that deserved a yellow card for trying to win a free. He should have booked everyone if that was the case.
McNulty was booked because of the attention that was given to the Tyrone tactics from certain sections of the media. Maurice Deegan had one of those games where he got a few calls right and a few calls wrong. However, the calls he got wrong affected Tyrone more than Kerry. Now, I am certainly not suggesting for one minute that Mr Deegan was biased. He wasn’t and I am not suggesting that he wasn’t up to the job in hand. He is one of the better referees about, but is the standard of inter-county refereeing on a par with where the game is at?
I have mentioned on many occasions before, the game has moved on; players are fitter; the game is faster and every aspect of the game is covered by managers and players alike. However, the officiating at the highest level is nowhere near what it should be. I know, like the players, that match officials are volunteers as well and they are only doing their best, but if you look at hurling, the same controversy surrounding decisions taken by referees do not cause anywhere near the same problems.
What makes football so hard to referee? Why do we see it day after day that while one referee will let a certain way to tackle go, another referee could dish out a yellow card; what one referee will give a black card for, another could let it go with a tick or a yellow card. Is it any wonder players, managers and supporters get frustrated. It’s not all the referee’s fault; rules need to be simplified. What is a tackle needs to be clarified and explained to underage players and their coaches, managers and the supporters.
If someone was to suggest to me that Tyrone got a raw deal on Sunday I would have to agree with them. At the same time I would agree that Cork got the same deal out of the Munster final. But the way in which they handled the aftermath by blaming different things has not helped the situation. The same administrators in Cork would throw the book at any club manager who would have a go at one of their officials. Maybe if the authorities in Croke Park would listen to some of the criticism by managers and players at the way match officials carry out their duties and didn’t put it all down to sour grapes, then things might improve.
Do you think in a couple of weeks that the Tyrone county board will release a similar statement. Of course not; they know the backlash they would receive, but would they be right? Would they have a right to have a go at some of the calls the match officials made on the day? Would they be right to suggest that maybe they didn’t get a fair crack of the whip?
While Tyrone may not get much sympathy, what if it was Donegal? Would your answer be different?