Thursday 22 March 2018

Connacht row puts focus on referee abuse

Referee Liam Devenney, far right, is escorted off the pitch at half time during the Connacht club SFC final on Sunday
Referee Liam Devenney, far right, is escorted off the pitch at half time during the Connacht club SFC final on Sunday
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

TYRONE disciplinary chiefs are tonight expected to throw the book at those responsible for the shockingly violent scenes that marred their recent All-County League final in Omagh.

But, worryingly for the GAA, the same process is now just starting in Connacht after a referee was jostled and verbally abused at the end of last Sunday's prestigious provincial club football final.

The incident involving Corofin supporters and Mayo referee Liam Devenney has once again thrown the spotlight on the unacceptable levels of abuse that Gaelic games match officials face, especially at club level.

Connacht Council had not received the referee's report by close of business yesterday, so it's not yet clear how Devenney will report the end-of-match incident.

But Corofin chairman Bernie Glynn said yesterday that the problems encountered at the game's conclusion also raised some other questions that the GAA should now look into.

"Myself or the Corofin club would never condone anyone abusing a referee, that was disgraceful," he said. "But I don't think it's a good idea to have any team playing such a game in their home venue.

"St Brigid's were playing in their home ground, which meant they also provided most of the stewards. The last five minutes were very tense and when the whistle went, the crowd got onto the pitch very quickly, from all angles.

"I'm not sure the stewards were alert to that because, naturally, they were supporting their team at the end of the game. When it comes to a provincial final, I believe it should always be played at the main county ground."

Under Connacht's rule, the games have to be held at the county ground or the secondary county ground of the 'home team' and, by coincidence, St Brigid's ground in Kiltoom is Roscommon's secondary county venue after Dr Hyde Park.

Corofin were aggrieved by several refereeing decisions, not least the disallowing of a goal just before half-time as a 'square ball', which TV replays later indicated was a legitimate score.

"The square-ball issue is one that happens on a regular basis, even at county level," Glynn said. "I understand these are difficult decisions to judge but, in this case, the referee was 40 yards away from it when it occurred and did not consult with his umpires at all, which was what we found very puzzling.

"Some of the (refereeing) decisions definitely didn't go our way but there is still no excuse for anyone ever abusing referees and we will co-operate in any way we can with Connacht Council when we receive the referee's report."

He added: "St Brigid's won the match on the field and the best of luck to them now in the All-Ireland series."

In Tyrone, it's believed that Carrickmore and Dromore will be asked to identify some of their supporters when officials from both clubs are summoned before Tyrone's Competitions Control Committee (CCC) tonight.

The Tyrone CCC met last week to review the referee's report and match video of the county league final that ended with violence in the stands and this is a second meeting to receive additional evidence from both clubs and decide on the appropriate punishments.


Tyrone secretary Dominic McCaughey insisted yesterday that they were processing the case as quickly and strictly as possible.

"It is important that we don't rush this and do it as comprehensively as possible," he said. "Obviously it depends on the level of assistance and co-operation we get from the clubs. I'd like to think that this can be brought to a swift conclusion but we will not be rushed. We need to get this right."

Several people sustained injuries in the violence, including a Carrickmore supporter who needed hospital treatment after having his ear bitten, with children witnessing the violence at first-hand.

Both clubs and individuals will have the right of appeal against any disciplinary action, but locally there is already speculation that the incident was so serious that the punishments may not be contested.

As long as such incidents occur, the GAA will be accused of being soft on discipline but Antrim County Board gave a strong lead recently.

They expelled two club members, a mentor and one player for life after an attack on a referee in an U-21 club game and also handed out heavy suspensions to five more players, including banning one for two years. They also suspended a spectator from all GAA property for two years.

Irish Independent

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