Dubious referreeing decisions greatly helped Kerry to victory

September 9th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

I have rarely if ever experienced the sheer delight, happiness, pride, euphoria, joy and jubilation which has literally swept the county since that astonishing win in Limerick over Mayo last Saturday week.  Now Kerry have been involved in many stirring battles down the decades with the likes of Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Down, Cork and Offally but none in my opinion has touch the Kerry football soul more than this latest semi-final victory.  The unrestrained outpourings of emotions began immediately following the final whistle in the Gaelic Grounds when the Kerry hoards swept onto the field to acclaim their heroes. It was happiness and joy uncontained, and it was a magnificent sight as I viewed the sea of green and gold from high over head in our Radio Kerry broadcasting nest. And one thing struck me forcibly, the sheer importance of allowing supporters come on to the field following wins such as this. It was their way of relieving the unbearable and agonizing tensions and nail biting drama which had unfolded before their very eyes during that epic game and extra time.

Yes this joyous invasion of the Gaelic Grounds was a very important part of the entire sage, draw, re-play and extra time. I had seen and experienced exactly the very same raw emotions displayed away back in 1976 following a similar enthralling marathon between Kerry and Cork in that years Munster final draw, re-play and extra time. These drawn out epics go to the very heart of what Gaelic games mean to the ordinary man and woman. They drain the very last ounce of energy from their very being, the Jekyll and Hyde character is to be seen at every game and indeed that Mayo man who came on to the field incensed with rage in an attempt to get at the referee was displaying feelings of sheer frustrations, disappointments and anger which as we know well occur on pitches and side lines from Donegal to Kerry on a fairly regular basis at all ages not just senior.  I have witnessed many such incidents as seemingly level headed individuals get a sudden rush of blood to the head and lose control for a few mad minutes.

And of course pitch incursions such as we witnessed in Limerick is wrong and can not be excused in any way what so ever but human emotions being what they are and persons having such a massively deep love for club and county it is understandable in a way and will always be part and parcel of our GAA culture. It is therefore up to the authorities to punish the offenders in the appropriate way. The referee that day in Limerick has come in for a lot of criticism in press, radio and TV. I thought he did not have a great game and Kerry were awarded in my opinion some dubious decisions which greatly helped them to victory. But what goes around comes around, swings and roundabouts and all of that. People can have very short sporting memories.

Kerry have in the recent past lost two All Ireland finals due to (and again it's my own personal opinion) blatantly bad referring. Late in the 2011 All Ireland final against Dublin Barry John Keane was wrongly penalized for standing his ground, Kevin McMenamon awarded a last minute free when he went down after charging into the young Kerryman, Cluxton pointed, Kerry lost, shocking way to lose a final. Now return to 1982, Mayo referee PJ McGrath awards a series of late but highly questionable frees to Offally which helps them close the gap with Kerry and set up the Seamus Darby legendary winning goal. Kerry loses the opportunity to win five-in-row All Ireland titles. While the Darby goal will be forever spoken about it was those "soft" free which were the eventful down fall of Mick o Dwyer's men. 

Referees are only human but they carry a massive amount of responsibility, it's a lonely job and I know from my own experiences that supporters can become very emotive and literally lose the head. It was not a pretty sight to see the referee sprinting for cover following that recent game in Limerick.

The minutes following the final whistle can sometimes be the most dangerous of all for a referee as I know well to my cost. Sometime in the late seventies, the month of February, a National League match in Tullamore, a dark rainy depressing kind of a day. A huge vocal crowd present. Offaly with the magnificent Matt o Connor, (what a player), are leading Down by two points, time up. I award a penalty to Down. Martin Furlong makes a brilliant full length save diving low to his right, Offaly win by two points. As I walk through the milling crowd around the gate on my way to the dressing room a man rushes forward and strikes me savagely in the face with an umbrella and he quickly vanishes in the crowd. Now escorted to the dressing rooms with an ugly swelling developing on my cheek I am approached by two Garda. The culprit has been arrested and I am required to attend the Tullamore Garda station before we begin the journey home.

I gave a lengthy statement at the station and when finished I asked to see the person who had struck me. Locked up in a cell sitting on a low iron bed he was feeling fairly sorry for himself. "So why did you strike me" I inquired. "Well Down were beaten and I had to take it out on some one so you were the obvious person", he replied. Just like the Limerick incident Jekyll and Hyde again, GAA style.  Two months later he was up in court in Offaly, he got a hefty fine and a 12 months suspended jail sentence and barred from attending matches for a year. A deeply humiliating experience.

That Limerick epic has set The Kingdom on fire, men and women, young and old, boys and girls can discuss only one topic, the  upcoming final against Donegal. Wherever you go you are questioned in relation to all aspects of what has happened, what might happen, and what will happen. The Sunday morning after the game as usual I attended the 10am mass at the Franciscan Friary in Killarney just a drop kick from my home. Walking down the isle after receiving communion I knelt at the very back of the church, two lovely elderly Killarney ladies spotted me, knelt, one at each side and proceeded to quiz me on every detail about Kerrys win. Everything else paled into insignificants, our mass was finished, the friar continued his job on the alter, final notices, final blessing etc. but their was only one final which these two ladies were interested in and for those concluding ten minutes in that church it eventually dawned on me that Kerry football and all it stands for is in fact a religion of its own.

Fogra: I will be in Sean Murphy's sports bar College St Killarney on Thursday 18th for the big final debate with a panel of football greats. John Evans, Seamus Moynihan, Liam Brosnan (on the last Kerry minor side to win the All Ireland) and Johnny Crowley all will be answering questions for over two hours on all things pertaining the minor and senior finals. It promising to be a fascinating event, drop in and join the debate.

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