Connacht defend final venue after ref incident
CONNACHT Council have defended their choice of location for last weekend's Connacht Club junior hurling final which saw referee Kevin McGeeney knocked to the ground during a melee.
The game, between eventual champions Calry-St Joseph's of Sligo and Skehana of Galway, was played on an artificial pitch at the council's Centre of Excellence in Ballyhaunis.
Due to "logistical reasons" the crowd of less than 300 were allowed to watch it from inside the perimeter fence, and their proximity to the game appears to have contributed to the flashpoint in which the referee was struck.
Connacht Council secretary John Prenty, who attended the match, said there was nothing wrong with the venue or the stewarding of the game.
"There is some building work being completed, so for logistical reasons the supporters were allowed inside the perimeter fence, but they were on a walkway which surrounds the pitch. It is four metres wide and is five metres from the sideline," Prenty said.
"There was nothing wrong with the location or the stewarding, the problem was with those people who stupidly chose to get involved."
Prenty is expecting the Roscommon referee's report today.
McGeeney was knocked down during a fracas that escalated when he awarded a free close to the dugouts with five minutes left. When order was restored a Calry player was sent off and a Skehana player was booked. The referee then resumed the game, with no apparent injury.
Prenty said that the incident with the referee was an isolated one and not in keeping with the spirit of the game.
Yet Croke Park may ask why supporters were located so close to the action as this is a particular bugbear of GAA president Liam O'Neill, who has declared his desire to get most mentors and team officials off the sidelines as he believes their presence increases the chances of disciplinary problems.
O'Neill's resolve to tidy up the sidelines will surely have hardened further after attending the Ulster club SFC quarter-final between Crossmaglen and St Eunan's last Sunday, when one team mentor was dazed after being pushed to the ground in another unseemly incident.