UNDER-FIRE referee Cormac Reilly received strong backing from his superiors yesterday in the face of criticism over his decision to award a late free that gifted Dublin a dramatic victory over Kildare at Croke Park last Sunday and a place in the Leinster football final.
ick Curley, the chairman of the National Referees Committee, delivered a strong statement of support for Reilly and insisted that emotion had to be removed from the decision-making process.
Curley admitted that Reilly's decision was "brave under the circumstances" but insisted that bravery didn't come into it.
He said he, too, would have given a free to Dublin such circumstances.
"It's not a case of being a brave decision; it's a case of being the right decision. And that's what matters most. Whether it's in the first minute of a game or the last minute of a game it's the same foul if it has occurred," he said.
Curley said the emotional arguments about a draw being the fairest result, about the timing and the position the free was awarded had to be removed if consistency is to be achieved.
"It doesn't matter whether a foul is intentional or not. If it's a foul, it's a foul and referees are always encouraged to call all fouls, regardless of when they happen or where. We have to try and reach that level of understanding and consistency," he added.
"I spoke to Cormac yesterday. He insists he saw a foul. There was a pull there and he made the correct call. Bernard Brogan was entitled to have a clear run at the ball and he was impeded from having that.
"My only concern would be that if Cormac had not been consistent in penalising these fouls. But from what I saw he was."
Reilly was a late replacement for David Coldrick, who had to withdraw from the assignment last Friday because of a slight injury.
Croke Park officials insisted yesterday that there was no question of an objection from Kildare to Coldrick, who is from Meath but lives in Dublin.
"That's not the case at all," said Pat Doherty, the association's referees administrator. "David had a slight injury and it was felt that there was no point in risking that."