Bizarre ending to minor final another controversy for the GAA to deal with

Controversy can at times plague the GAA and in recent times we’ve certainly had our share of it locally.

Controversy can at times plague the GAA and in recent times we’ve certainly had our share of it locally.

The South is still grappling with the fall-out from that abandoned U16 game between St. Mary’s and Ballingarry while Killenaule and Ballybacon had their own little spat at Littleton before the lights went out.

It has all drawn unwelcome publicity for the South division particularly but it would be unwise for others to sound too self-righteous because controversy can bubble up anywhere.

Just to prove the point the County Board will now have to deal with the implications from last Sunday’s minor hurling final where we had an extraordinary ending with the referee cancelling a late Holycross ‘penalty’ while the Mid champions trailed by a single point with added time just up.

The circumstances here were quite incredible. Two minutes of added time were announced and we were heading into the final thirty seconds when Holycross were awarded a ‘penalty’ with the scoreboard showing them a point adrift of Nenagh. The ‘penalty’ award was clear-cut – no controversy there – but what followed bordered on the bizarre.

A Holycross mentor tried to introduce a new ball for the free and in response the referee cancelled the ‘penalty’, gave a throw-in instead and Nenagh successfully defended before the final whistle sounded seconds later.

Holycross looked stunned by events though you certainly can argue that they were the architects of their own misfortune. What in God’s name were they doing with a dry ball when a simple tap over from the free was the sensible option to send the game to a replay instead of going for broke?

Against that it would be interesting to see the referee’s explanation for cancelling the free and giving a throw-in. In the immediate aftermath I was emphatically told that it’s in the rules and he acted correctly. Really? I checked that night with those who know infinitely more than I do about referring rules and whose views I respect. Guess what? There’s nothing in the rules allowing such an action; indeed the scenario of a new ball being introduced isn’t even mentioned in the rule book.

There are a few quite specific circumstances where a free can be disallowed, such as retaliation, but none of these scenarios applied here. It just seemed a very arbitrary decision that has very unfortunate consequences.

Natural justice would suggest that this game should be replayed though I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. One’s overriding sympathy is with the Holycross teenagers who had a rare chance of a county minor medal stolen in such questionable circumstances.

For Nenagh it’s something of a tainted title and one sensed that in their demeanour afterwards. What a pity because these two fine sides had served up a really gripping second half especially. In the first half Holycross had the brighter opening but then got hit for two goals before the break. And here’s another refereeing issue: the PA announced at least two minutes of added time approaching the interval, yet four minutes were actually played with Nenagh getting their second goal over three minutes into that additional time.

The second half opened up into a really engrossing contest though Holycross were constantly chasing a lead, albeit mostly a modest one. Some of the point scoring by Liam Moloney was a classy feature on the Holycross side; Donnacha Quinn had a matching impact for Nenagh. Then just as we were anticipating the prospect of a replay, events took a strange turn. I suspect we’ll hear more on the issue.

The ‘B’ final made it an historic week for Ballina who just about saw off the brave effort of Sean Treacys/Emly. Conor Maguire was a big player for the winners but Sean Ryan produced some classy cameos for the West champs, including one second half point from under the old stand which would decorate any hurling field.

Brendan Cummins’ announced retirement during the week hardly came as a shock but still has a feel of a loss about it. For almost two decades he bestrode the inter-county stage with consistent excellence and the eulogies during the week have been both genuine and generous in his praise.

His departure will open up many a wintertime debate on the greatest goalies of all time. Opinions will vary but in every discussion Brendan will be up there in the mix with the best. You need to be of a certain – dare I say advanced? – age to compare him with Reddin but from the mid-twentieth century onwards most will regard him as the greatest.

For me he had a few distinguishing characteristics that set him apart as extra special. Goalies have to be braver than most other players and he lacked nothing in that department. If there was a ball to be disputed in his zone he didn’t shy away from the challenge irrespective of whatever forward was thundering in after it. His fine physique no doubt assisted and made him a commanding figure around the goal area.

The quality of the cat-like reflexes has been noted by many and everyone will have their own individual memories of specific saves he pulled off over the years.

However, for me the essential defining characteristic that singles out the really great ones is longevity. Many reach the top but only the truly great stay there and maintain the highest standard for a prolonged tenure. Since the mid nineties he’s given us a marvellous sense of security, a sense of certainty that the number one spot wouldn’t be found wanting whatever else happened. 2007 was an aberration – it reads now like an absurdity – and his silent dignity during that spell won many admirers.

As the song goes he was simply the best and I’m not so sure we’ll plug the hole left by his departure so easily. He deserves our appreciation.

Meanwhile Loughmore stake their Munster claim with an opener against Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh this Sunday at the Stadium. These are heady days for this extraordinary club. And the double is on after Commercials couldn’t cope with a buoyant Loughmore in the football semi. Their immediate challenge now is to face the Limerick champions and they’ll surely go in as outsiders against a visiting side that won the province in 2011. Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes are probably their best known players at present, as well as captain, James O’Brien. Loughmore face a tough battle though in their present mood it takes a brave – or foolish! – man to bet against them. The winners will have a home semi-final against Passage of Waterford, so the prize is big.