You reap what you sow

Nobody in their right mind would seek to justify the stupid, mindless physical attacks made on referee Martin Sludden in the chaotic aftermath to today’s Leinster final at Croke Park. Regardless of what any supporter thinks about a referee’s performance, such cretinous carry-on cannot and should not be allowed to happen on a Gaelic football field. Every effort should be made to identify those involved in the assaults on the ref – and those idiots who threw bottles down from the Davin Stand, knocking a steward unconscious in the process – so that they may be appropriately dealt with.

But if the GAA stop there and fail to examine thoroughly the circumstances that gave rise to the post-match pandemonium, then they will – once again – be refusing to recognise the serious problem they have where it comes to match refereeing. Today’s shocking performance by Martin Sludden isn’t the first time this year that a ref has failed utterly in his job and I have my doubts that it’ll be the last. Indeed, the only consistency where it comes to reffing Gaelic football is how poor it is, yet the GAA still doesn’t appear to recognise there’s any problem in this area at all.

Virtually every weekend brings a fresh batch of complaints about another refereeing stinker but all criticisms of desperately poor officiating are routinely waved away. I gather that ref supremo Mick Curley was on the radio this evening, spinning furiously in defence of the hapless Sludden, as he has done again and again in relation to other refereeing failures in the past. This is the mindset that sees Marty Duffy, who did nothing about that assault on Nicholas Murphy in last year’s All-Ireland, being pronounced as the ref of the year. Or Joe McQuillan getting to do the line at last year’s minor final, despite his woeful performance as ref in our quarter-final with Meath.

The easiest thing in the world for the GAA to do now would be to concentrate exclusively on the post-match thuggery and brush under the carpet everything that occurred during the game. At one level this would be understandable – Sludden is, like all other GAA refs, doing this in his spare time and, at a human level, he deserves some sympathy. Such feelings shouldn’t, however, be the determining factor in dealing with this case. Instead, the GAA needs to ask itself why a ref of such limited competence was handed a high profile match like this in the first instance (our sole experience of him was the 2007 U21 All-Ireland semi-final and his poor performance that day marked him down as someone you’d think twice about before handing him the reins to a big match). And it simply has to ensure that refereeing failure on the scale witnessed today has a consequence. Otherwise, the blight of desperately poor refereeing will continue to eat away at the attractiveness of the game.

29 thoughts on “You reap what you sow

  1. Agreed Willie Joe hopefully this is a wake up call for the GAA but I fear it wont be. Even now you can see that all anyone is really talking about regarding the ref is the assaults. I’m not condoning them but put it this way, in a similar context, Louth hadnt been in a final in 50 years and hadnt won one in 56. If that was us in the context of an All Ireland final would we all have managed to stay calm and collected, I doubt it and would wager the ref would be on the potential end of a similar attempted bashing. Anyway I digress, my point is that they will address the problem but not the symptoms, as you state this has been an accident waiting to happen due to the extremely poor level of officiating across the board in the GAA. They will hide behind the amateur excuse but thats all it is, the GAA is as close to professional in most aspects of the game but in officiating its still back in Thurles in 1884.
    The other point I would have on this, is that the abuse of officials and general lack of respect (sometimes warranted I might add) is endemic in the GAA and to suddenly cry foul when the actions are beamed live into everyones homes on a Sunday afternoon is total hypocrisy when you know the problem has been inherent in the GAA for years. We all have been at club matches where similar scenes have unfolded, and what has happened to ensure they dont happen again, very little. If the GAA wants to ensure this never happens again they can by getting serious about the quality of officiating, and introducing a zero tolerance approach to the abuse of officials, both verbal and physical throughout the association. It can be done, and until it is anything else they do is pissing against the wind.
    Wait for it now, they’ll talk of the need for fences, yet you can have 80.000 people in the Millennium Stadium with no fences, not to mention scores of other fine stadia throughout the world. Focusing on that is not solving the problem

  2. Had the GAA an independent clock doing the timekeeping then the “goal” would have never come. Three mins were up when the “try” was awarded. Secondly we see that the so called lesser light’s are treated like shite by headquarters. We lost two goals to poor officals v the same Meath outfit last summer.
    This is where it differs. The press and media made no big issue about our fate, poor old Mayo, another sad day for them was the take. However when the GAA top men appointed that ref to run the final sideline it was a two fingered salute to all followers of fairplay. It came home to roost yesterday. Time for Curley and that commitiee to be disbanded. You cannot defend the indefensible. A ref that is not up to it should never be used and if we have to wind up with a hard core of 5/8 really good refs to do most championship matchs, well thats better than letting loose some of the idiots that has set fire to the ambitions of decent counties and their followers.

  3. I think we can all see what is going to happen here.
    The GAA will focus solely on the attacks on the ref, with little or no mention of the atrocious referreing performance. It wasn’t just this one incident he made a balls of (and to be fair, Louth benefited more than Meath from his inept display).

    All we’ll here is how fans will no longer be allowed on the pitch. This is the opportunity they have been waiting for to implement this rule.
    Watch as a law will be rushed through making it illegal to enter the field of play, with prosecution likely for anyone who transgresses.

  4. Reckon some sort of fencing will now be erected around the pitch on the back of this which is a shame. That will be the “solution” to yesterdays problem i reckon.
    It is very likely that Meath will offer a replay. i think it would be the right thing to do if only for themselves.

  5. Just out of curiousity how many of the readers and contributors on this fine website were thinking yesterday, as the clock ran down into the final seconds, that if any team can snatch a draw or a win from the jaws of defeat it’s Meath. They have done it so often (as we know) and are never beaten until the final whistle goes. I know I sat and rooted for Louth all the way yesterday but always felt they hadn’t got it won and would be caught by a late ambush. Against other oppostion that feeling would be less intense but somehow when its Meath against anyone in a tight finish they always seem to come out with a last gasp win. Sometimes its because the have this never-say-die attitude and sometimes its because they get the lucky breaks but one way or another they do it.
    Was I the only one yesterday to feel nervous for Louth and sat through the final minutes thinking this isn’t over, there’s a twist to come?

  6. I was in bits Ma-Yoman. You could feel the tension, Not sure if it was because it was meath or not though. That last 3 mins seemed to last forever. I have to say just befoe the “goal”, the block by the Louth defender was miraculous. He came out of nowhere.

  7. Three things would have stopped Meath winning yesterday had the ref chosen to heed them. Time was up, the forward that caught the ball was in the square before the kick came in and the goal was actually a try, he rolled over and threw it in. So if a team gets that type of luck as Meath has got since 1987 then they expect it as a right. Refs get conditioned to it and seem to think Meath should get this. Limerick got no last minute reprive v Kerry last week. Had the ball been down at the other end and Kerry needed a free in to level it up….what do you think would happen? One law for certain teams and the other law for the rest of us.

  8. Actually, the Meath County Board decide whether there will be a replay Dubsfan, so I’m afraid you’re inaccurate there.

  9. I’d just like to point out that when the injury time is shown by the 4th official it is the MINIMUM time that is left in the game. The ref is entitled to add on more if he feels that there is time-wasting/injuries etc. So Sludden was completely within his rights to play on for another min or so.

    However since square ball happened first it supersedes everything that went after it. Free out to Louth. (Mistake 1)

    If he misses that the goal isn’t a goal because it was carried over the line. Free out to Louth (Mistake 2)

    If he misses that he should consult properly with the umpires. He fails to do this and just tells the goal umpire to put up his flag. (Mistake 3)

    I’m not going to comment any on the aftermath – only to say we all saw it, it was shocking.

  10. Right my computer is messed up so Willie Joe-if ya have the time would ya delete those links? Thanks a mill!

  11. Kevmy, I am aware that the injury time flashed up is the minimum that can be added. That in my opinion is a complete cop out. One ref blows on the dot of the alloted added time and another can let it run 4/5/6 mins. Time to get rid of that type of bull and take the timing away from the referee or else stick to the time actually flashed up. I was at a game where 2 mins were shown but the match went on for another six until an equaliser was gotten. Eight mins in total.

  12. No fences will cure the problems that we saw yestrday in Croker.
    Here’s just one of those problems.
    The GAA does not attract enough quality individuals as referees. Why would anyone in their right mind take up refereeing with the abuse they get at club matches – right from U12 up. The result is that too many ‘ludhers’ end up refereeing matches – making lots of mistakes – thus attracting even more abuse. More abuse = less chance of attracting good individuals. This is a viscious circle that needs to be broken.
    Solution:
    1. GAA to face the fact that there actually is a real problem.
    2. Introduce massive sanctions for clubs where a ref reports abuse.
    3. Do everything to give the role of ref status – good expenses, good training, award ceremonies, every perk that is possible to give.
    4. Actively recruit retired club/county players
    5. Train club officials and players of all ages in how a ref should be treated.
    6. Introduce video technology for big games for crucial decisions.
    7. Do like the ladies for time keping.
    8. Train (and empower) linesmen and umpires properly
    9. Survey refs as to what would make their job easier and more attractive and act on this.
    10. Create an appeal mechanism against bad refereeing decisions that change the outcome of a game.

    Just my tuppence worth!

  13. That’s all very well and good diehard but in reality there is no need to go to that extent.

    Every ref makes mistakes. They have been doing so since the introduction of refs in sport, and more importantly they always will – because they’re human beings and not computers.

    If people are so annoyed about the state of refereeing then they should go and do the training courses and become referees themselves.

  14. @dubsfan, where does that leave fair play? I’ll grant you fair play is a concept that rarely applies in real life but in sport we set out to have games that apply the principle, and in this case we have failed. This incident exposes so much of that is wrong with GAA- timekeeping, umpiring, poor refereeing, and no doubt the Croke park mandarins ( who are a law unto themselves and increasingly nothing to do with the GAA will seek to use this incident for their own purposes in getting severe sanctions for people who come onto the pitch.
    On that point Peter McKenna, head honcho of the ‘hired help’ at Croker questioned why the Louth manager was “in animation” with the ref… Another case of the Croke Park crowd seeking to protect their precious stadium at all costs- in this case the reputation of a thoroughly decent football man, Fitzgerald

  15. The overall standard of refereeing across the board is diabolical and it is one of the biggest problems in our game. Referee’s need to stop this playing for draws nonsense. We seen this in the Munster Hurling Final too yesterday. How many games have been ruined this summer because of incompetent refereeing. Gearoid O’ Conamha who is without a doubt one of the worst referees in Ireland effectively ensured that Longford got every chance to end Mayo’s involvement in this years championship. The players also were 100 per cent to blame but even before the throw in I knew we were going to be up against it because of his past form.

  16. The ineptitude of the GAA authorities mirroring that of our own county officers will ensure that the unfortunate series of events of Sunday will be used only to satisfy the Health and Safety Gestapo who believe Croke Park would be a much safer place only for those pesky fans ..and players making it an unsafe environment.
    On the try…
    They will hide behind their lack of rules which dictate that the referees decision is final even when he says its a mistake..However I think Louth will benefit from not getting a replay, surely this will keep the wind in their sails going into a qualifier much better than, say going into same with tail between legs having been beaten by meath in replay.

  17. We are going to see the total hypocracy of the GAA over the next few days. Footage from the match will lead to a number of Louth players facing sanction. The same footage will show (a) Time up (b) square ball (c) player crossing line with ball in hands (d) then throwing it away. The CCCCCC (Russia?) will sanction the players on this footage but ignore the fact that a rather large smelly white elephant is running amok in the room. They are powerless to reverse the injustice even when the referee admitted he cocked up. Why? No, dont post me the answer please. Its in some obscure rule cleverly designed to drive us all mad. The Director General of the GAA commented on the Lampard goal in the recent World cup. He alluded to the fact that FIFA might learn from the GAA with umpires. Try telling Mayo and Louth followers the benefit of umpires…especially against Meath. Finally seeing as I am thick, I see Eugene McGee commented on the injustice that Louth suffered. Mayo were denied a legitimate free at the end of the Longford match but didnt get it. I didnt read any comment from McGee about that. But Louth are a good news story, Mayo are like an old pair of smelly socks, best thrown out and forgotten in the world of the media.

  18. ontheroad I agree the timekeeping should be taken away from the ref but as the rules currently stand you cannot say the amount of time played the last day was wrong or that time was up.

    However as the rules currently stand you can call for a square ball, a possible penalty and must rule that it wasn’t a goal.

    Personally I’m a general sports fan and not just a GAA fan. The only sport which seems to be getting a handle on disciplinary and refereeing issues is rugby. The players respect the refs, the refs talk and communicates with the players through the captains, the refs can use video technology, timekeeping is more open and players can be cited afterwards by an independent citing commissioner present at every match. I think the GAA and soccer can learn a lot from rugby but I fear they both will stick there head in the sand as they have done up till now.

  19. I undersatnd the calls for use of technology but what has it got to do with this particular incident. The Meath ‘try’ was so blatently obvious to the naked eye it didn’t need technology.
    The umpires didn’t wave any flag because they took a view it wasn’t legit – they saw it and made a decision. It was the referees option to check why the umpires didn’t flag a goal but he just seemed to give an instruction to support his own call. He has admitted he made a mistake – although what exact mistake he admitted to isn’t clear. Was it the mistake of (1) not giving square ball (2) awarding a goal or (3) not consulting his umpires?

    Now, as regards the replay or no replay. Well it looks like it was never going to be a replay but a bit of shuffling was needed to see who would be ‘responsible’ for that decision. The GAA HQ did the first Pontius Pilate saying it wasn’t theirs, that it was a provincial match and was therefore a Leinster Council issue. They in turn passed the buck to the Meath Co. Board and they said ‘not us’, let the players decide. Talk about cop outs!! The Meath players were never going to go for a replay – why would they? When the decision was left to the Meath board / players the outcome always favoured a ‘no replay’ – especially if reports are to be believed that certain Meath players, officials, fans and the odd past manager were all the subject of abuse – not just the ref.

    I actually go along with what now looks like a ‘no replay’ decision even if it was made using a cop out process. What would a replay resolve ? No matter which team won the replay the Leinster title 2010 is tarnished. Meath a have a undeserved title and Louth, thanks to a few thugs, have managed to turn the GAA fairy-tale of 2010 into a horror story!

    When all the ho-ha dies down the GAA have got to look at the issues that diehard was mentioned above. I’m sure the first move will be to ban fans getting on the pitch. More cop out cause that’s the easy thing to do but – make some noise that they are taking action. They were building a case for it anyway so now they have it sown up! The harder decisions like acknowledging and doing something about the refeering problem will be slower to happen.
    And using technology !!! You can forget that!!

  20. The powers that be will dance around the real issue for sure. Still though they will be delighted that the leinster final and not the world cup final was the talk of the town for the last few days.

  21. I agree jpm that refs make mistakes because they are human and you can never eliminate that. What you can do is reduce the number of mistakes by taking the issue of the refereeing crisis seriously. And this is not a reaction to the Louth debacle. Many dedicated GAA (football) people have been commenting on this for many years. Things seem to be better in hurling for some reason.

  22. Diehard – apologies are warranted. I agree totally with what you say and it would be of phenomenal benefit to the GAA (and probably to a lot of other sports as well). However I don’t think it would guarantee that a similar event would not re-occur.

    In the case of Sundays events the questions should be passed to either the CCC, the Leinster council or, Central Council. And the answers should have come from one of these parties.

    Why? Becasue Martin Sludden has admitted to a clear and grave mistake and one that has clearly affected the outcome of a major GAA event.

    Everyone knows what the fix is but there is no mechanism for this remedy. And no one wants to put it in place, so the onus was passed completely back on the Meath players and management.
    Colm O’Rourke asked that this not happen, however his plea fell on deaf ears. And now it seems Louth (who have no other option) are considering a legal route.

    As we agree mistakes will always be made but the solutions are not in place for when these mistakes are made. This I believe is one of the fundamental problems in this issue.

  23. Still trying to come to terms with us gone so early this year.Like above I was rooting for Louth and thought the game would never end(again probably because of meath)also knew if any team could pull it out of the bag it was Meath and you have to admire them for that.What happened after the match was wrong but if we were in an all ireland final and the same thing happened I could see the same outcome.We are all to fast to run onto the pitch, this has to stop before someone is killed and then we are faced with watching matches through fences.I thought it was bad form from the Meath players to vote against a replay after all Laois granted one and Clare were quick to offer one when the game finished early.As for the referee I thought he had done alright up to that but the umpire ,a picture in tonights paper clearly shows the ball been carried over the line with the umpire having the best view in the house.On a more positive note there are some good games to come next week Roscommon and Sligo, Armagh and the Dubs and I am going to seek help to try and get over our early exit

  24. No offence Bill, but admire them me arse, anyteam could have pulled it out of the bag if your just going to decide to do away with the rule book.
    Plenty of other stadiums dont have fences, Millienium Stadium for example, 2006, munster winning the Heineken Cup for the first time, an event which would not be dissimilar to Mayo finally reaching the promised land in terms of
    It has no fences and sweeps right down to pitch side, its piss easy to get on the pitch if you want to. Nobody did because stewarding was such that you couldnt, another factor is of course that not many even tried. Why is that? Its not because its rugby, alot of the followers that day would have been GAA fans first and foremost who wanted to follow Munster AND even in Thomond Park people invade the pitch. Point is, people coming on to the pitch is not the fundamental problem here, even though the GAA is now trying to make it so to deflect attention away from the herd of elephants in the room, and even if it was it could be resolved without fences.
    With some proper thought, will, resolve and some rule changes/enforcement of laws the GAA could tackle once and for all its acceptance of violence in the game against refs and even amongst players AND stop people coming onto the Croke Park pitch. Its not rocket science.

  25. maybe we should consider a campaign to change the Meath nickname from the Royals? How about the Ball Throwers? 🙂

  26. east cork exile You have to admire the way Meath never say die and have come back against teams so often in the past.Clearly what went on Sunday was a disgrace and hopefully they draw Cork and that should put an end to them

  27. Bill. Do Meath come back against other teams or is it a bit of poor refereeing allied to pushing every rule to the last.? Time up, square ball, carrying it over the line and throwing it into the net is not coming back. Its rank piss poor refereeing.
    So to is awarding a Mayo line ball to Meath 12 months ago in a quarter final, awarding a penelty after he allowed the forward a shot on goal and letting O Rourke carry the ball over the line and he and two idiot umpires failed to spot it. Good come back or shit refereeing?
    Great come back or poor refereeing along with breaking every rule in 1996×2? I am sure Cork have an opinion on how they lost All_Irelands v Meath in 87 and 88. Once more every dark trick was used and football was put back 20 years. Tyrone 1996. Remember that?. Tyrone wont forget Meath and their zealous attititude in the tackle. Liberal use of the “tackle” and a stray boot here and there made sure they got to the final. We reaped that particular whirlwind.
    Sometimes the so called big guys get the big decisions, nothing admirable in that. To me they are a despicable side that would do anything to win and have done so. An Spailpin is a man I doff my hat to. Reading his appeal to Meath just shows that the bully will never change. “What we have we hold” should be their motto. They got away with theft and not for the first or last time.

  28. I think you have to have a bit of grudging respect for Meath and their unwillingness to accept defeat – I only wish that we had a bit of their backbone when crunch games are there to be seized. Poor refereeing can’t be laid at their door but it’s notable that their win over us last year and last Sunday’s ‘victory’ over Louth could not have happened without complete refereeing failure (you could argue that the same was true of the 1996 All-Ireland final replay). I don’t think this means there was any particular refereeing bias towards Meath – Sludden gave at least 80% of the calls on small issues to Louth before his monumental fuck-up at the end – just that incompetence worked in their favour in both games. Maybe they were just smart enough to spot (in both matches) that the refs were the kind of guys that could be taken advantage of. In the end, it all comes back to the standard of reffing as most inter-county players will take every advantage coming to them, including ones they’re not entitled to.

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