Ref chief stands by Duffy's swift action
There should be no immunity from red cards in Gaelic games, whether they happen in the first or 71st minute.
That was the fervent view of the chairman of the national referees committee, Michael Curley, who said his body were firmly backing Michael Duffy's decision to send off a Portlaoise player in the first seconds of their All-Ireland club semi-final against Kilmurry-Ibrickane at Limerick's Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.
The game was only 18 seconds old when Brian Mulligan, son of Portlaoise manager John Mulligan, caught Shane Hickey with a high challenge and received a red card.
The decision provoked anger among Portlaoise officials, who contend that it should have been no more than a yellow card, and the unedifying spectacle of the Sligo official requiring an escort from stewards at half-time and again at full-time raised the issue of protection for match officials in such tense situations.
But Duffy's decision to produce red has won praise from Curley, who looked at the video and agreed with the call.
"There is a line of thought that these offences should not be punished because they come so early in the game and that they imbalance the teams. But if it's a red-card offence then it's immaterial when it happens," said Curley.
The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) met yesterday to consider the implications of what happened in the All-Ireland club semi-final and at a NFL Division 4 game in Longford on Saturday, after the home side appealed against the result of their loss to Limerick after Westmeath referee Sean Carroll called full-time when the ball was still in play, denying Seamus Hannon a goal.
Carroll admitted the mistake to Longford officials afterwards and is understood to have mentioned this in his report.
The mistake highlighted the difficulties referees face in switching between different sets of rules for inter-county and club and college games.
Portlaoise have also pointed to a number of frees awarded against them in the first half for apparent incorrect execution of hand passes, something they feel applies to the experimental rules only.
Curley agrees that switching between different sets of rules from week to week is challenging for officials, but doesn't feel it will continue to be problematic in the future.
On the wider issue of protection for officials, the referee's chief said it was difficult to "find a better way".
"I felt the stewards and gardai reacted well in this instance. As to what can be done, I don't think there is much more than vigilance among stewards. Screening off the crowds is not something I'd be in favour of," he said.
"These incidents are not commonplace when you consider how many games are played each week."
Curley said he had spoken to Duffy, who was fine and hadn't been shaken by the incidents.
Ironically, Duffy's brother Marty, who refereed last year's All-Ireland final between Kerry and Cork, attracted criticism for not sending off Tadhg Kennelly for his high challenge at the throw-in on Nicholas Murphy.
Kennelly wasn't even yellow carded and the failure to take action prompted criticism, particularly when Kennelly outlined, in his autobiography a few weeks later, his intention to make an early physical statement in the game.
Privately, Portlaoise officials were suggesting that this incident might have influenced Michael Duffy's actions but Curley said consistency was at the heart of what he did.
"All anyone wants from referees is consistency. Michael Duffy was looking at the incident, not his watch, and got the right call in our opinion," said Curley.
Portlaoise anger had quelled somewhat and last night they met and subsequently issued a statement wishing Kilmurry-Ibrickane well in their All-Ireland club final. The club also refused to condone the behaviour of some of their support afterwards. The man who angrily confronted the referee at the end of the match is understood to be a former player with Portlaoise.
They had a second player, Brian McCormack, sent off by Duffy for a second yellow card just after the interval and he could face an added suspension for making alleged contact with the referee by pressing his finger into his chest. It is understood that the CCCC have dealt with this incident.
Meanwhile, Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick has revealed that he has requested officials of his county board to seek a replay of Sunday's O'Byrne Cup final against DCU.
The students won the match by a point, with Shane Roche's winner coming deep into injury-time to give them a 1-15 to 0-17 victory.
But what angered Louth was that referee Joey Curley allowed play to restart with a kick-out after Roche's winner and then blew for full-time.
Fitzpatrick said he had no problem with DCU scoring the point to win the game but once it restarted, under current rules, it could not end until there was a break in play.
"I approached the referee afterwards and he said to me that he had played two minutes of extra-time," said Fitzpatrick.
"I said to him that it didn't matter, he could not end a game during play and it didn't matter whether there was five or 10 minutes extra played, the ball had to be out. Even the DCU management were shouting at their players to kill it when the kick-out came back into the middle of the field," said Fitzpatrick.
"Everyone knew time had elapsed but the ball still had to be out of play. Therefore it is our contention that the referee blew early.
"The ref clearly made a genuine mistake but they must know the rules. The players have to know the rules, they have to execute the right hand passes. We'll certainly be lodging an objection to the Leinster Council about this. I said so to the chairman and secretary of Louth County Board after the game."
Leinster Council had not heard from Louth by last night.