THERE MAY have been a real urge for a game of hurling, but in the end the weather won out as the OulartThe Ballagh and Ballyhale Shamrocks AIB Leinster Club Senior hurling championship semi-final was called off on Sunday last.
The decision was made by referee Barry Kelly after consultation with the respective team managers just 20 minutes before the 2 p.m. start when the Wexford Park pitch was deemed unsafe.
Spectators reacted with fury at the late call, having already been allowed entry to the ground after paying their €10 admission fee. However, there was to be an ugly end to the afternoon as supporters were refused a refund following the decision.
There was a large movement towards the stiles, but already Leinster Council Treasurer, John Byrne of Carlow, had instructed stile operators for those in attendance to hand in their name and address, adding that they must contact the Leinster Council office for a pass for the re-fixture.
A number of supporters were visibly upset at the manner in which they were treated as rain continued to pour down.
'We (supporters) have been tortured once again by the G.A.A.,' one said. 'We understand that they may have been unable to hand back money, given that free passes would have also been in operation, which would have added to the confusion and possible lack of cash for a refund.
'But surely in this day and age the Leinster Council could have handed out tickets for admission to the re-fixture. That's the least we deserved having come out in such dreadful weather. Given the amount of rain that has fallen in the southeast over the last number of days, that pitch must have been even unplayable yesterday (Saturday).'
It's understood that Leinster Council were informed by Wexford G.A.A. before midnight (Saturday) that the pitch would not be playable, but the message fell on deaf ears as the provincial council were adamant that the game would go ahead.
The sideline under the stand was covered in water while there were pools of surface water all over the pitch, so much so that the crowd was left annoyed that an earlier call had not been made, particularly as it had been raining incessantly all morning, following upon Saturday afternoon's heavy spillage.
There was no way that this game could have been played as there would have been a health and safety concern for the players given the poor underfoot conditions which were deteriorating by the minute given the heavy downpour.
Several hundred spectators had paid their €10 admission into the game.
Oulart-The Ballagh manager, Pat Herbert, the former Limerick player, said they had no dispute with the referee's call.
'The referee, Barry Kelly, inspected the pitch and made the call in the interests of health and safety. It's disappointing but having looked at the pitch there was no other alternative.'
However, Herbert was not satisfied that such important club games are played at this time of year.
'This is a club semi-final in one of the best competitions on the G.A.A. calendar. It's a pity that they have to be played at this time of year.
'The G.A.A. made a decision in the past not to have inter-county games in December and January, but now they are playing one of their best competitions in late November into December. This will be re-fixed for next weekend with the final the following weekend, mid-December, which is not hurling weather.
'It's disappointing for the players. They were prepared and wound up for today's game. Now they must wind down and re-focus for next weekend.
'That's difficult in itself. It's difficult to see what the G.A.A. can do about fixtures, as they are also trying to fit in the Railway Cup. It's difficult as they have tried so many alternatives in the past.'
Ballyhale Shamrocks manager, Tommy Shefflin, brother of Henry, said they were put on notice before leaving home that there was a doubt about the game.
'This was a health and safety decision. It would not have been a hurling contest, as the game would have developed into a slogging match had it been played.
'Supporters would have come expecting a great game of hurling. They would not have had that today. Hopefully they will get a good game next weekend.'
The re-fixture is in Wexford Park on Saturday at 2 p.m.