Photo: Irish Examiner
That piece by Sean Moran in this morning’s Irish Times is interesting, stating as it does that the Croke Park suits are reportedly furious that Kevin Keane’s appeal the other night was successful. Kevin wasn’t, of course, the only player to get off the hook at the CHC meeting on Wednesday night but his case did seem the most clear-cut and, at a purely procedural level, you can see why the suits would be annoyed that ref David Gough’s decision was overturned.
However, any fury that Croke Park might have about this decision surely has to be aimed at the CHC itself and not at us, which Bernard Flynn (at least in part) does in his idiotic intervention on the issue. All we did was chance our arm and take the appeal – as we also did, though without success, in relation to Donal Vaughan’s black card – and it was up to the CHC to decide the merits of this. If certain individuals had to absent themselves from a particular decision then that was their own business and if those left in the room didn’t stick to the script then that was hardly our fault.
Flynn’s caterwauling aside, I don’t, to be honest, believe there’s any danger of our successful appeal having any kind of negative ramifications for us. In particular, I can’t see it having any bearing on the semi-final is likely to be reffed. In fairness to Joe McQuillan, he’s one of the most experienced officials on the roster and while we’ve had good days and bad days with him so too have Dublin.
Every ref will get a few calls wrong in every game (as Gough did the last day, though he did very well overall) and there are sure to be a few contentious decisions the next day too but I’d certainly have McQuillan ahead of, for example, the likes of Coldrick and Deegan. What befell us with Reilly last year was no conspiracy but rather a ghastly one-off – giving an incompetent official bigger and bigger matches risked something like that happening eventually, which unfortunately it did to our great cost – and I’d be happy enough that we’ll get a fair enough shake the next day.
There is a wider point in relation to the CHC appeals, though, which concerns suspensions picked up at this time of year. A straight red in early February carries the same suspension as one collected in August yet the resulting one-game ban you get for each can’t be seen as equal punishments. It’s one thing missing a League game on a dirty, cold Sunday in early spring, quite another to be prevented from lining out in an All-Ireland semi-final or final.
Going back to the incident that occurred in the Donegal game, there’s nothing either to stop a mean-minded sore loser exhibiting anger management issues in an All-Ireland series match (for purely illustrative purposes, let’s call him Michael Murphy) from starting a fracas which results in an opponent from the winning team (let’s call him Kevin Keane) retaliating to an overly aggressive provocation and getting a red card as a result. Even if the player from the losing team gets sent off as well (which should have happened to Murphy but of course didn’t), the punishment he gets can’t be equated to that suffered by the player from the winning team.
It’s little wonder, then, that you get so many appeals like this at this time of the year, with all manner of technicalities brought into it. In the Diarmuid Connolly case it was (I think) that the ref hadn’t written his name in the book, in the Lee Keegan case it was that Coldrick said he’d kicked out at Buckley and we were able to show he’d only attempted to do so (a loophole since closed, by the way). The bottom line is that counties will do everything to ensure that their players don’t miss out on the biggest matches of the year and, more often than not, players meet with a fair degree of sympathy when they plead their cases to the CHC to get off.
While this outcome clearly offends the professional classes sitting behind their desks in Croke Park – dreaming, as they surely do, about the “product” they’re marketing and how it can be made ever more like the professional team sports they long to ape – it’s not today nor yesterday that successful appeals began to be made at this time of year. Indeed, there are such a litany of cases that may be cited that you could argue this phenomenon is part of the GAA’s very fabric at this stage. That’s not saying that any of this is right or correct but just how it is and Kevin’s successful appeal on Wednesday night needs to be seen in this light.