Thursday 22 March 2018

Martin Breheny: Cork statement made a laughing stock of the county

James O'Donoghue, left, and Cork's Mark Collins both react before referee Padraig Hughes awarded Kerry a controversial penalty in the drawn Munster final
James O'Donoghue, left, and Cork's Mark Collins both react before referee Padraig Hughes awarded Kerry a controversial penalty in the drawn Munster final
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It is 28 years since Cork acted like spoiled brats by refusing to fulfil extra-time in a football League quarter-final against Dublin in Croke Park.

They had already recorded their indignation over being asked to play on and were headed for Heuston Station by the time Barney Rock scored an unchallenged goal at the start of the added period, whereupon the referee ended the sham.

Living up to the 'Rebels' tag, they thought they had some technicality on their side about extra-time, only to discover that the GAA was having none of it. Cork were thrown out and Dublin went on to win the League title.

It was an embarrassing episode for Cork, but they could at least claim that the walk-out was a spur-of-the-moment thing, an impulsive reaction to what they saw as an unfair imposition.

There can be no such excuse for the scattergun emission from Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Monday when, while defending Brian Cuthbert, they made a laughing stock of the county.

The board were right to publicly support Cuthbert, who has been subjected to some outrageous personal attacks since Cork's defeat by Kildare last Saturday week.


Much of it was under the cowardly cloak of social media, but several mainstream comments were downright ignorant too, lacking any sense of humanity towards an amateur manager doing his best in a tough environment.

But then, it is part of some analysis nowadays, where self-serving guff attracts more attention than measured assessment, especially if dished up with pre-planned insults.

But what prompted the board to denigrate a referee as part of a defence of their ex-manager?

According to the board, Cork would, in all probability, be now preparing for a semi-final if it weren't for "a totally wrong refereeing decision" against Kerry in the drawn Munster final.

They didn't specify the refereeing atrocity, although it takes no great powers of investigation to deduce that it was a penalty kick, awarded by Pádraig Hughes (Armagh) to James O'Donoghue, which he turned into a crucial goal.

That brought the game level at the three-quarter stage, leaving Cork with plenty of time to win it. Yet, they still want us all to believe that the penalty decision cost them a place in the All-Ireland semi-final.

It didn't. Their failure to press on and win the game on a day when they played well for long stages, followed by an anaemic display in the replay, are the reasons they didn't win Munster and line up a quarter-final with Fermanagh.

What's mind-boggling about the Cork statement is the certainty with which they classify the penalty award "as a totally wrong refereeing decision".

Says who? However many times the incident is replayed on TV, opinions remain divided. Personally, I don't think it was a penalty, but so what?

Hughes had to call it in real time and, even if he had recourse to a re-run, he might well have stuck with his initial reaction. Such is the nature of 50-50 calls.

The Cork statement also points to the seven-day turnaround between the replay ("played in exhausting conditions") and the fourth-round qualifier clash as contributing to the defeat by Kildare.

They may well have a point, but perhaps it's best addressed to the Munster Council, where Cork are an influential voice. Munster left a 13-day gap between the drawn and replayed final, thereby forcing the losers into a seven-day turnaround for the season-defining qualifier.


Whining about a refereeing decision - which really was a marginal call - a month later sounds pathetic, especially when the team had three more chances (the closing quarter of the drawn Munster final, the replay and the qualifier with Kildare) to wipe out the impact of the penalty goal.

And what does it say to Cork club referees when their board shows such disrespect to an official who is in the country's elite group? It will certainly undermine the board's disciplinary authority the next time one of their referees is publicly criticised after a club game.

Cork's defence of Cuthbert is admirable, but to link it with an accusation that their absence from the All-Ireland semi-final is down to a "totally wrong refereeing decision" smacks of arrogance and self-delusion.

It's not remotely appropriate at a time when Cork's internal systems are attracting severe criticism.

Any chance of an apology to Padraig Hughes? It would be the honourable thing to do.

Irish Independent

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