The All-Ireland final media event for our camp took place last night and no doubt we’ll be hearing, in dribs and drabs between now and the 17th, about all that was said then.
One morsel that the nationals have, understandably, run with straight away was Stephen Rochford’s comments about the ref for the final. There’s coverage of this today in the Irish Independent and Irish Examiner.
In doing so, Stephen broke a year-long silence about Maurice Deegan’s inept handling of last year’s replay. He did so in forthright terms too:
Maurice Deegan came out afterwards to say that he missed the blatant hand trip with John Small, which had an effect on Dublin being able to still use a substitute when Cian O’Sullivan pulled his hamstring with six or seven minutes to go.
You’re expecting somebody who will be able to take control of a really big game, get the calls right, an experienced referee. But look, it’s something that’s outside our control so you don’t give it much attention.
While he was at it, Rochy also turned his fire on the Dublin dirty tricks department from twelve months ago, when he referenced the campaign targeting Lee Keegan:
In the days after the All-Ireland final replay last year I said I did feel that it was a concerted effort. It’s something that we have moved on from and we just look forward to getting on with it on the field.
We’re now a year on from all that, of course, and – as the manager himself was at pains to point out – what occurred in the past stays in the past. I do think he was fully justified, though, in raising these points.
On the reffing issue, it’s unquestionably the case that Maurice Deegan’s incompetence had a bearing on the outcome. Not a decisive impact, you could argue, but in a game eventually decided by just a single point there’s equally an argument to be made to the contrary.
It’s not a game we can re-run and Dublin, fair play to them, won last year’s All-Ireland. We look forward to taking them on in this year’s final with a competent official in charge.
On the black ops side, it was clear then and it’s still clear now that a nasty underhand campaign – which nobody will ever convince me wasn’t sanctioned at the highest levels in the opposition camp – was waged to blacken Lee’s reputation. Again, twelve months on, we have to wish that there’s no repeat of these antics from the other side of the fence.
As I mentioned the other day, the mood around last year’s final was at times dark and hostile. For sure this wasn’t helped by what was being said in public, in particular by that coterie of ex-Dublin players. There appears to be a genuine mood amongst fans of both counties for no repetition of this kind of mutual bad blood ahead of this year’s final. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Stephen also had a bit to say, by the way, about the player injury side of things last night. The Connaught Telegraph reports (here) that the manager confirmed the trio who came off with knocks last Saturday are all on the mend. Colm Boyle (achilles) and Donal Vaughan (hamstring) will return to training tonight while Diarmuid O’Connor (hamstring) will be back in training next week. All going well, all three should be battle-fit for the 17th.