Evidently nothing learned since 2010

It may be time for the GAA to go and learn from other sports again. Recently, this corner learned that both American Football and Basketball have in their arsenal a transgression called ‘Delay Of Game’.

It means exactly what it says on the tin. Penalty for which, in the latter at least, means free throws and possession thereafter. Mention has been made numerous times in this space of how the fast paced five-a-side pursuit has three referees and another official whose sole responsibility is time management.

I’m not exactly sure when the GAA began using electronic number boards for the announcement of substitutions and additional time, but it is my understanding (open to correction) that the management of both matters is the responsibility of the Fourth Official to deal with the administration of both.

Meaning that, in relation to substitutions, the little slip of paper that for eons the sub handed to the referee is now given to the curiously titled Fourth Official – umpires must be lower down the totem pole. If you go back to the 2010 Leinster Final between Meath and Louth, whatever was originally slated for injury time was exceeded after JP Rooney kicked the ball away in an effort to run out the clock.

In fairness to Louth, the additional extra time was only one bone of contention they were entitled to with the eventual outcome. However, where the vast majority of the commentary on the matter at the time and in all the years since has been misguided is here – understandable opprobrium should’ve been directed at the GAA authorities at the highest level, not the Meath players or County Board.

Did Joe Sheridan chance his arm? Of course he did. Viewed from another angle though, he did exactly what anyone who has ever been involved with a team would’ve expected him to do – play to the whistle. What did people expect him to do, say “Eh, ref, I fouled the ball there?!”

Joe Sheridan scoring THAT goal in 2010

Bullsh**. Fault for that entire mess lies squarely with officialdom at the highest level of the Association. Start with referee Martin Sludden and his team of officials. How none of them spotted what was wrong was baffling.

Though in fairness to the Tyrone whistler, he did say, on record, that he was going to award a penalty – which Cian Ward absolutely would have buried – if the ball hadn’t ended up in the net.

However, what absolutely shouldn’t have happened was that whether there was a replay or not hinged on a vote between the Meath players in The County Club – Lord rest its gentle soul.

That it did was nothing short of a cop out and an act of cowardice of the highest ordrr by the GAA’s top brass. But amazingly, even though the personnel have changrd, evidently nobody has learnt anything since 2010.

Last Sunday, Kilmacud Crokes ended up with 16 men on the field for the last play of the game. Yes, for a very brief few seconds it was actually 17, but, and this hasn’t been said enough, the minute Paul Mannion spotted Tom Fox on the field play, he got off the pitch at the nearest point.

Of course that doesn’t excuse Dara Mullin and Conor Clancy being on the field at the same time, but before rushing to hysterical judgement a la Joe Brolly. That’s not to say the Dungiven man didn’t have a point. He absolutely did, but flying into pronouncements before the dust had even settled served nobody well.

Nor, mind you, have the GAA, with their abject laziness and deriliction of duty. In absolutely no way should it be left to Watty Grahams of Glen to give them an out from their own incompetence.

At this point, though, a few points worth making. Just as when Navan O’Mahonys used an extra sub against Dunboyne in 2005 or with Joe’s goal, nobody deliberately goes out to contravene the rules. There is a thing called human error.

Especially with high octane, split second decision making. Which is where the abyssmal performances of the officiating crew comes into play. Not, in fairness, the main man, Derek O’Mahony, himself.

Kilmacud manager Robbie Brennan with midfielder Ben Shovlin

This corner would be no fan of the Tipperary native – he has never been too nice to Meath over the years – but in this instance he was horrendously let down by his team of assistants. For example, consider the following:

(a) If it is not the job of the Fourth Official to ‘manage’ substitutions, what other purpose do they serve?

(b) Given that the linespersons generally have to get the referees attention to let a sub on, can they not observe players coming and going and thus spot any mishaps and advise accordingly?

(c) In view of the fact that all substitutions are now announced over the public address, could neither of the umpires at the Railway End not have noticed No. 14 (Dara Mullin) still on the field and taken appropriate action?

After all, Mullin was on the goal line right in front of them. Stevie Wonder would have seen him! How a team of eight people controlling the game – plus a HawkEye official in the stand couldn’t cop Kilmacud’s error would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

Number Up: Dara Mullin

In the interest of fairness, it must surely be acknowledged that, had the Stillorgan club’s error been brought to their attention, it can be safely assumed they would have rectified it post haste.

That misses the point entely though. It shouldn’t have been up to them. And it most certainly shouldn’t have been left to Glen to go chasing restitution once the Kilmacud infraction of the rules (accidental though it surely was) once it was pointed out to Malachy O’Rourke’s team and they in turn informed those who were in a position to do something about it.

Their deflection of the onus back to the Derry club is a lazy, cowardly deriliction of duty of care to the game and, more pointedly, to both clubs involved here.

Realistically, unless the GAA took some sort of action immediately the matter was brought to their attention, any talk of doing so lost all credibility. How do you ask a team to give a trophy back 72 hours after they have been presented with it and brought it around their locality celebrating?

Furthermore, if a replay were to take place, it would leave a sour taste in the mouth for both clubs. No matter which of them won there would be an asterisk beside the result. There probably is as things stand.

In the fullness of time, though, it will be the GAA’s inaction – commensurate to when Charlie Redmond stayed on the pitch for a period after being sent off against Tyrone or when Cavan’s Ray Cunningham had a shot – blatantly wide – flagged as a point in the 1997 Ulster SFC Final against Derry – which will stink like pig slurry.

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