O'Brien defends Wicklow discipline
WICKLOW officials have strongly denied the county has endemic disciplinary problems, despite another high-profile club row in the Garden County.
Ugly scenes marred a Division 4 South-East league junior football final in Arklow last weekend when players from neighbouring Tinahely and Avoca got involved in a major fracas that reportedly involved up to 20 players.
It was sparked off when an elderly umpire was pushed while trying to draw the referee's attention to the fact that Tinahely were taking their kick-outs from the wrong place.
Yet Wicklow county chairman Andy O'Brien insisted the county's disciplinary record is no worse than that of many others and blamed the media for focusing too much on their flashpoints.
"We don't condone any incident and our Competition Controls Committee (CCC) will deal with whatever has happened in the strictest possible way, but whenever anything happens in Wicklow it is highlighted and covered out of all proportion," O'Brien said.
"Myself and other members of our management committee have visited other counties to judge things for ourselves.
"We were at a county final in one very prominent county this year where we witnessed what I would regard as one extremely serious incident, yet there were no pictures of it in the media and it was not highlighted anywhere," he added.
O'Brien declined to identify the county in question but was adamant that incidents in Wicklow are being blown out of proportion and are giving his county an unfair reputation.
"There are hundreds of games in Wicklow every year, these are isolated incidents yet these are always the things that are highlighted, not all of the good things that are going on in Wicklow GAA," he said.
"I was at a game between Eire Og Greystones and Baltinglass last weekend, a vital match that decided who won the Division 1 league and who was relegated and there wasn't the least bit of hassle in it but that got no coverage."
O'Brien said Wicklow disciplinary chiefs take a very firm hand in matters that come under their remit and "certainly do punish people harshly enough".
"My own strong feelings about indiscipline are very clear and are available, in the online convention reports, for everyone to see. This is an issue we deal strongly with," he insisted.
After last weekend's fight, Tinahely were reduced to 14 men before play resumed. Another row flared up briefly before the end of the game which led to Avoca also having a player dismissed but they won the game on a 1-7 to 1-4 scoreline.
Last May two players were sent off after schools players clashed during a vocational schools 'B' final between Colaiste Raithlin (Bray) and Colaiste Craobh Abhann (Kilcoole).
In September a referee called off a Wicklow intermediate football championship game between Shillelagh and Ashford at half-time after he received a volley of verbal abuse for sending off a player from each side.
In the same month another IFC game, between Aughrim and Eire Og, saw five players sent off on straight red cards.
Also in September another Wicklow referee was struck by an umbrella after a junior 'A' championship football match between Enniskerry and Blessington.
Just one player was sent off during that game -- for a second yellow card -- but the referee reported that his notebook had been struck from his hand by the blow from a spectator which occurred when he was making some notes as he was walking off the pitch after the final whistle.
Wicklow's reputation is not helped by the fact that such incidents are not isolated. This time last year, Wicklow found itself the focus of some serious disciplinary questions after a spate of serious on-pitch violence in four separate incidents.
They included eight players getting sent off in one senior football match alone, a ref getting charged at by a player at the end of the county minor final, a ref abandoning another match after he had been struck and another senior football match culminating in a brawl.