Martin Breheny: Pointless minor appeal a major Limerick mistake
Raising false hopes more a case of tormenting than mentoring
JUST what were Limerick at when they decided to pursue an utterly lost cause with such relentless zeal? Their challenge to the result of the All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final with Galway on the basis that they had a perfectly good point ruled out by a Hawk-Eye cock-up was always destined for failure, yet they drove on through the GAA's internal hearings systems before coming before the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) on Monday night.
Three separate groups found against Limerick because, under the rules, they had no option. Hawk-Eye's technical glitch offered the referee conflicting messages and he sided with the MISS graphic rather than the visual evidence that the ball had passed inside the Galway post. He could have over-ruled the MISS signal, but chose not to do so.
Mind you, no blame attaches to referee Fergal Horgan (Tipperary), since he was faced with the impossible situation where a supposedly foolproof score-detection system offered him conflicting results, the second of which was MISS.
The referee accepted the second option and, from that moment on, Limerick's 'point' did not count.
Tough on Limerick? Absolutely.
Still, since it came in the first minute of the game, they had plenty of time to make up for it, but, in the end, the game finished level before Galway won in extra-time.
Incidentally, Limerick's levelling point at the end of normal time came from a free, the reason for which was not readily transparent. Suffice to say, Galway had solid grounds for complaint.
Limerick manager Brian Ryan made no fuss about the lost point after the game.
"We took it in good faith that it was a wide and didn't dwell on it. Outside of that, we had 17 scoring chances in the first half that we didn't take while Galway had 10 and took eight," he said.
Ryan further noted that in the overall context of a hectic game, the lost point arose from one of many opportunities.
That appeared to be the end of the matter but by the following day, Limerick were in a bullish mood, having decided to challenge the result. And so began the journey down Lost Cause Avenue.
The rules clearly state that "no objection or counter-objection may be submitted on the grounds that a referee had incorrectly allowed or failed to allow a score."
If that rule didn't exist, chaos would reign, especially at club level, where disputes over scores are more likely to arise than in the inter-county game.
Limerick's view was that Hawk-Eye's involvement changed the dynamic. However, it did not change the rule; nor did it alter the reality that the referee has ultimate responsibility for awarding scores.
Limerick's power-brokers must have known that, yet they still embarked on a fight to have the result changed. Hopes were raised among the minor squad that they might, in fact, get back into the All-Ireland race when it was never even a remote possibility.
Some Limerick representatives spoke movingly of the trauma facing players who had to deal with the loss of an All-Ireland semi-final in the same week as they were receiving Leaving Cert results. It was an interesting juxtaposition of emotions, although it was difficult to see the relevance.
Still, even if that were the case, it was incumbent on the county board to show leadership, including telling all concerned of the non-negotiable reality that there was no way back once the referee had shown the result of the game to be a one-point win for Galway.
Besides, what about the uncertainty for the Galway players of not knowing for sure that they were in the All-Ireland final until early yesterday morning? And what of the Waterford players who must have been concerned that the final might not even be played next Sunday?
Fighting your corner is one thing but raising false hopes among minors – or any other age group for that matter – is more a case of tormenting than mentoring. Limerick have enjoyed an excellent season, winning both the Munster senior and minor hurling titles, so it's a pity they decided to embark on a journey which was always headed for a dead end.
They were let down by Hawk-Eye, a system brought in to avoid score-detection errors, only to deliver a classic cock-up less than three months into the official trial period. Limerick should have left it at that.