Sunday 15 September 2019

Liam Fennelly: 'Referee's decision was correct but it ruined the game for everybody'

18 August 2019; Referee James Owens shows Richie Hogan of Kilkenny a red card during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
18 August 2019; Referee James Owens shows Richie Hogan of Kilkenny a red card during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Liam Fennelly

One moment of madness effectively decided the 2019 All-Ireland final. Once Richie Hogan was red carded there was only going to be one outcome.

Tipperary didn't actually have to play particularly well in the second half which, in terms of intensity, was akin to a challenge match.

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It was unfortunate that one single incident could dictate the course of the final but that's precisely how it panned out. I had a perfect view of the Richie Hogan elbow on Cathal Barrett.

My immediate reaction was that none of the match officials saw the incident and certainly the referee didn't see it. And I didn't think it merited a red card.

However, once I saw the replay, Hogan didn't have too much grounds for complaint because the intent was there. I'll put my hand up here and acknowledge I was guilty of doing the same thing during my own career but I probably knew I would get away with it. Times have changed, of course.

The bottom line is that Kilkenny cannot blame the referee for their loss even if it was absolutely central to everything that happened afterwards.

On a general point I think referees are under too much pressure nowadays. In most cases the man in the middle would have handed out a yellow card and the incident would have been quickly forgotten about.

However, in the back of James Owens' mind he was probably thinking about the video analysis on the Sunday Game and how he would be hammered for not applying the rule as it is stated. And nobody could question the fact that he applied the rule to the letter of the law.

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Unfortunately his decision ruined the game for everybody. Kilkenny's entire game plan was built around applying pressure on Tipperary. But once the space opened up there was only going to be one outcome.

The two teams were like chalk and cheese: Kilkenny were willing but Tipperary had the skill and once they got space their forwards were going to do damage. It was skill v bravery and the former reigned in the rain.

Until Hogan's dismissal Kilkenny had done quite well even if they didn't look particularly creative. I'd say most Kilkenny fans were surprised to see their team race into a 0-8 to 0-3 lead in the first quarter.

During that period Tipperary were waiting around for things to happen. It was a different story however when Kilkenny were down to 14 men.

Once that happened it was plain sailing for Tipp. Nobody really had to stand up and be counted but they did made effective use of the space and I think everybody in the stadium knew what the final result would be long before the end.

It was merely a question of what the margin would be.

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