Six players see red after Wicklow row
Wicklow GAA has another major headache on its hands as a result of a senior football championship quarter-final being marred by disgraceful scenes.
Players from Carnew and Rathnew were embroiled in several fistfights towards the end of the game, resulting in the referee Declan Peppard dishing out red cards to six players.
This was a vital championship match for both teams – Carnew were appearing in their first football quarter-final in 40 years, since winning the hurling and football championship double in 1973 – and up to the flashpoint the exchanges were contested in a sporting spirit.
Then the row erupted out of the blue in the 50th minute of the game. It was something Wicklow GAA did not want following a dispute with some referees who had been aggrieved after criticism of the handling of a championship match two weeks earlier.
Apparently, this flare-up was sparked off by an off-the-ball incident and what began as a shemozzle between a small number of players wrestling on the ground quickly escalated into rolling battles, sucking in more and more players including reinforcements off the sideline as punches were traded liberally.
At that stage at least four players had their pugilistic endeavours rewarded by referee Peppard with straight red cards. Carnew and Rathnew were now officially minus two attackers each.
At the time Carnew were in the process of making some substitutions. They were adamant that they had substituted one of their red-carded players before he was sent off.
Referee Peppard had a different view. It appears that the referee had not received official notice of the substitution and therefore it was not legally completed.
The fighting now gave way to farce. Carnew stuck to their view that they had made the substitution before the red card. As the game continued, the substitute remained on the field of play for some minutes before the referee's repeated demand that he be removed was eventually complied with.
It was evident from the comments from the sideline that Peppard will not be on the Christmas mailing list of either team.
Minutes after the row Carnew were down to 12 players as a defender saw red. Then, just before the final whistle, Rathnew found themselves playing with just a dozen players as one of their central players got his marching orders.
Rathnew won the match by 2-9 to 0-7.
Declan Byrne, manager of Rathnew, said that he was happy enough with their performance and with their football in the second half.
He said that they accepted that the referee had a job to do and had no qualms about that.
He added he would have to have a hard look at the game to see what really happened and hoped that the referee got all his decisions right.
Rathnew are due to face St Mary's, title winners in 2011, in the semi-final in three weeks' time and – already struggling in their games this year – they will now anxiously await the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.
Peppard remained tight-lipped about the row which flared out of the blue, but did confirm that he would be submitting a full report to the Competitions Control Committee.
Mick O'Hagan, chairman of the committee, said that they would await the report from the referee and then deal with the matter.