Referees being urged to clamp down on provocation - Walsh
Referees are under firm instruction to be extra vigilant for provocative gestures and words being directed between inter-county players this year, the GAA's national referees development chairman Sean Walsh has stressed.
Walsh made his comments after a weekend when two of Gaelic football's highest-profile managers hit out at what they felt was a lack of protection for top players.
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte suggested it was a shame that his captain Sean Cavanagh would be a victim of someone enticing him after he picked up two yellow cards, the first for tangling with his marker Lee Keegan.
Cavanagh had protested vehemently to officials during the first half before the incident that led to the first yellow took place as the teams came back out on to the field after half-time.
Harte said referees needed to "tune in" to who starts these altercations.
In Saturday's second match Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly also picked up two yellow cards, prompting his manager Jim Gavin to suggest that he is being deliberately provoked in matches.
"We all knew what would happen, that some of our players would receive special attention. That was the case and it's up to officials to act on it. There are eight of them - four umpires and four men in black. . . they're letting the players down, on both sides by the way," he said.
Connolly picked up his first yellow for an altercation off the ball with Ryan McHugh, who Donegal manager Rory Gallagher could equally argue is a victim of special attention.
Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin admitted they were "hoping to try and entice him" when Connolly picked up a yellow card for reacting to a pat on the head by defender James Dolan by pulling him to the ground and fixing him in a headlock, technically a black card offence, just as Mayo's Seamus O'Shea picked up in last year's All-Ireland semi-final replay after reacting to Dublin's Jonny Cooper, who had deliberately barged into him late well after O'Shea had moved the ball on.
Connolly admitted, however, that he hadn't been goaded and had merely been acting out of his own frustration.
He was also the victim of an attempt to draw a reaction from him in the previous game against Meath, when Graham Reilly appeared to kick out at him.
Walsh agreed that GAA games at this level are among the "heaviest policed" in sport "with seven or eight people at any one time and they should be able to see all of that".
He is adamant that the message from his body is strong that clamping down on such behaviour is a priority.
"Our position is very clear. Where there is provocation found to have happened and the referee or his officials have seen it or heard it, they are asked to take the appropriate action and that action is covered in rule (black card)," he said.
"We have been stressing that all year and that is what we expect to happen."
Just two players were black carded during the league for what's listed as provocative actions.
"Obviously it's something that is difficult to prove but where a referee or his team of officials come across it, we expect them to take action," said Walsh.
"On numerous occasions we have stressed this that we do not want this happening, that we want it stamped out.
"Obviously they (referees) take everything on board, it's something that's very difficult to prove in relation to what type of intimidation is taking place.
"If you aren't in a position to directly hear it or see it, you're not in a position to prove it.
"We do not expect things that are happening off the ball to be ignored and they are fully aware of that."