GAA doing its best to ruin championship – Ger Loughnane
GER Loughnane has accused the GAA of "doing its best to ruin one of the best hurling championships we've ever had" by adopting a hardline stance on refereeing and sending off players for relatively trivial offences.
His remarks came as an Irish Independent analysis of red cards in this year's championships shows that, on a proportionate basis, more hurlers than footballers have been dismissed.
That is most unusual since fouling is far more prevalent in football, thereby increasing the possibility of picking up two yellow cards, resulting in automatic dismissal.
However, the GAA has insisted that no 'get tough' policy was issued to hurling referees before the championship.
Thirteen hurlers have been sent off in the 27 hurling championship games so far, compared with 25 footballers in 58 games. That equates to one red card every 163 minutes in football as opposed to one every 158 minutes in hurling.
Loughnane believes that hurling referees are coming under pressure to take a harder line and has backed a call by Limerick manager John Allen for a split from football in this area.
"John Allen had a perfectly reasonable solution, that there should be a separate panel of referees for hurling and football and that the hurling referees should have their own co-ordinator. There is no comparison between the two games, or the refereeing of the two games. Everyone knows that," he said.
Former football referee Pat McEnaney (Monaghan) is head of the National Referees' Committee, which oversees both hurling and football, and Loughnane believes the system is not working and that hurling is being punished for the sins of Gaelic football.
There has been growing concern in hurling circles this year over what is perceived as a tougher line being taken by referees. Henry Shefflin (Kilkenny) and Ryan O'Dwyer (Dublin) were dismissed on two yellows over the past month, while Cork captain Patrick Horgan was sent off on a straight red in the Munster final.
He later had the red card rescinded by the GAA's disciplinary authorities, while Shefflin had one of the yellow cards he picked up against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final overturned, resulting in the dismissal being expunged from his record.
O'Dwyer, who was sent off against Cork last Sunday, is to make a similar attempt as there was considerable disquiet in the Dublin camp over his first booking, which came in the second minute.
Three high-profile dismissals in major games, two of which were later rescinded while the third awaits a hearing, inevitably leads to suspicion that a harder line is being taken.
"Pat McEnaney should have nothing to do with hurling referees as far as I'm concerned," said Loughnane.
"It should be Dickie Murphy (Wexford), Pat O'Connor (Limerick), solid referees that you had in recent times.
"They should be the men that hurling referees answer to, not McEnaney."
Red Cards – Championships 2013
Football (25 reds in 58 games)
Martin Penrose (Tyrone), Joe McMahon (Tyrone), Stephen O'Neill (Tyrone), Aidan O'Shea (Mayo), Eamonn McGee (Donegal), Conor Meredith (Laois), Kieran Hughes (Monaghan), Peter Kelly (Kildare), Sean Quigley (Fermanagh), Shane McCabe (Fermanagh), Martin Reilly (Cavan), Benny McArdle (Down), Kevin McKernan (Down), Kieran Martin (Westmeath), Michael Reidy (Limerick), John Riordan (Limerick), Neil Gallagher (Louth), John O'Brien (Louth), Neil McAdam (Antrim), John O'Loughlin (Laois), Barry Grogan (Tipperary), Gareth Bradshaw (Galway), Niall Coleman (Galway), David Givney (Cavan), Padraig McGoldrick (London).
Hurling (12 reds in 27 games)
Ryan O'Dwyer (Dublin), Henry Shefflin* (Kilkenny), Richie Power (Kilkenny), Patrick Horgan* (Cork), Bobby Kenny (Wexford), Andrew Shore (Wexford), Shane Kavanagh (Carlow), Jack Kavanagh (Carlow) twice, Paul Coady (Carlow), Karl Stewart (Antrim), Paul Fennell (Westmeath).