Monday 19 March 2018

Billy Keane: Referee hung out to dry in the rush to defend Horgan

Cork's Patrick Horgan reacts after being shown a red card by referee James McGrath during the Munster SHC final
Cork's Patrick Horgan reacts after being shown a red card by referee James McGrath during the Munster SHC final
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I thought I was the only one. The only one who thought that referee James McGrath was right to send off Cork's Patrick Horgan in the Munster hurling final.

This week the referees' supremo Pat McEnaney backed his man.

This week the CCCC overturned the referee's decision to send off Patrick Horgan.

In my opinion the 4Cs got it wrong.

I miss some of the nuances but love the game of hurling. In a way, it's like the priest who gives advice on marriage. You'd have a good idea about what would be going on, even though you haven't tried it yourself.

Horgan has a very good record. Indeed, Donal Og Cusack, his one-time Cork colleague, said on 'The Sunday Game': "I know him since he was a young man, and if anything, you were trying to put a bit of devilment into him for the last few years."

So, Cork were trying to put a bit of "devilment" into Patrick Horgan.


To be fair, Cusack goes on to say Horgan wasn't a dirty player. You would have to feel for the young lad. He has been thrown into a massive controversy over what was not a particularly nasty strike.

A source I trust in Cork tells me Horgan is "a lovely lad" but the red card was justified.

The sliotar was some distance away from Horgan's hurl. I am sure there was nothing malicious in the strike or, as RTE called it, "a pat on the head," but there was recklessness or carelessness. We'll go with the lesser charge of carelessness.

One of the Cork players said: "Okay, you can say the referee was technically right, but I thought it was an outrageous call."

The ref was technically right. Isn't that what refereeing is all about? There can be no room for compromise when it comes to blows to the head, even in cases such as Horgan's where the striking was not particularly forceful and the blow came from the 'boss' or flat part of the hurl.

The fact the Limerick player struck by Horgan acknowledged it was an accident is very sporting, but accidents are caused by carelessness.

In hurling's rush to defend the Cork player, a great wrong has been done to referee James McGrath. Refs are human, believe it or not. McGrath must have been through hell and back with the hurling world ganging up on him. Cork's Jerry O'Sullivan, who is vice-chairman of the Munster Council, said "even a yellow card would have been a stretch".

We favour light-touch regulation in hurling. The very nature of the game demands more flexibility from refs when it comes to the physical, but head blows are too serious to be passed off as mere taps. Last week, Clare player John Conlon was struck on the head against Wexford and for a while, there was serious concern about his injury. John has no memory of the game. His blood pressure soared and the tapper walked.

The hurling counties and the players involved have a tighter bond than their footballing counterparts, but there must be no compromise when it comes to player welfare.

Overall, though, this has been a good week for the GAA.

Last week we highlighted the disadvantages of being a Londoner. The GAA as an organisation has not turned away our emigrants from Croke Park. Today London play on the holy ground. A dream come true. I know how much this honour means to the London players and their families.

Earlier this week it was announced the London GAA's county grounds in Ruislip will be redeveloped at a cost of €4m.

GAA president Liam O'Neill has been working on the deal for some time. The president is a quiet man, but he gets things done. He may not have the high profile of a Sean Kelly, but his heart is in the right place and history will record O'Neill as being one of the most progressive of GAA presidents.

This has been the best year in some time for the wider GAA family. Monaghan's rebirth was a joy unsurpassed even in Windsor. And Monaghan had twins – minor and senior. For years, these men from the land of the drumlins travelled to matches full of hope only to return home beaten and forlorn. But Monaghan stuck at it.

My god-daughter Grainne is a Monaghan girl and another joy she is too. The word from Monaghan is the celebrations went on for three days and three July evenings. Patrick Kavanagh, who was a much better poet than he was a goalkeeper, wrote about summer in Monaghan in his poem 'Iniskeen Road: July evening'

The bicycles go by in twos and threes

There's a dance in Billy Brennan's barn tonight,

And there's the half-talk code of mysteries

And the wink-and-elbow language of delight

Ah but we'd say there was no winking or nudging on the Iniskeen Road last Sunday evening, but full on praising and laughter.

Before I forget, a word of advice to young lads who want to impress GAA women. Learn off a few lines of Kavanagh and learn how to kick with your left.

Romance is alive and well on the stony grey soil and in the green and brown meadows of Clones. What a summer it's been. Children of 10 years of age have spent more time on the beach this year than in all of their previous decade.

Dublin won a Leinster title in hurling and beat Kilkenny and Galway on the way. Limerick, the county that never holds back, won the double in hurling. London, with the smallest pick of all, reach a Connacht final and Bruce Springsteen brings more fans to Nowlan Park than even Henry Shefflin.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport