WITH Cork hurling going so well on all fronts, it has been easier for the casual fan to focus on the positives and put the travails of the footballers out of their minds.
Just in case you’ve forgotten, Peadar Healy’s side are in action this Saturday evening when they take on Mayo in Limerick for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. And, if any football supporters are feeling that the local media are showing bias in terms of coverage, we can assure you that that is not the case.
Access to players or management haven’t been possible over the past week or so. Presumably, they’re looking to keep things low-key so as to allow for the best preparations.
Nationally, it was a rather predictable weekend. Dublin and Tyrone won provincial titles at their ease and Monaghan overcame Carlow, albeit after a bit of a scare, while Armagh finally managed to win a game of some substance, beating Tipperary in Thurles.
It was an odd game of football, as Michael Quinlivan’s goal for Tipp early in the second didn’t prove to be a springboard but instead seemed to put a halt to their gallop as Armagh inched their way back into the game.
The Orchard County claimed victory with Jamie Clarke’s late goal the clincher, and they are in the last 12 but it wasn’t the game itself which drew the most attention on social media, instead it was the performance of referee Eddie Neilan.
More than once in the past, in this column we’ve expressed the view that referees deserve better than widespread abuse after a poor performance. By and large, players are treated sympathetically when their mistakes contribute to the losing of a game but a referee risks the accusation of being biased against a team, for whatever reason.
That certainly wasn’t the case with Neilan, as the Twitter verdict was that he was bad for both sides. Not allowing Armagh advantage in the first half when they had a goal chance was glaring, while Tipperary were more than aggrieved with the calls in the second half.
Neilan is popular with those who decide on referees for big games. He was appointed for the league Division 1 final between Kerry and Dublin, despite having only reffed two Division 2 clashes and one Division 3 game in the spring. Dublin manager Jim Gavin felt that his team were denied a penalty that day, citing Neilan’s lack of big-game experience as a factor in its non-awarding.
He also got the Munster final between Kerry and Cork, but the one-sided nature of that game meant that it was almost fully devoid of flashpoints. While a round 3B qualifier isn’t of the highest prestige, it was of course going to be the last outing of the year for one of the teams involved. In such a landscape, it’s important to know that defeat will be down to the errors of those involved within the camp and not any outside agents.
If Neilan is short of the experience required for bigger games, then the question must be asked as to why he was appointed in the first place. Nobody is going to turn down such an offer, so therefore it falls to the committee in charge of match officials to ensure that the best personnel are in place for such occasions.
A losing team will often use a referee’s performance as an excuse for a defeat and it’s hard to see that changing any time soon – but when the criticism then questions have to be answered as to how such a situation arose.
We do fear though that a similar column will be written in a year or two after a similar situation arises, with nothing done to improve things in the meantime. We can only hope that that will not be the case.