Tipperary legend Eoin Kelly believes two referees need to be introduced in hurling following a number of controversial calls during the All Ireland semi-finals at the weekend.
While the Paddy Power GAA Ambassador was critical of Sean Cleere’s performance during Tipperary’s narrow win over Wexford, he also expressed his sympathy and suggested that referees need more help on the pitch.
The Kilkenny referee came under heavy criticism for a number of decisions which saw Tipperary denied three goals while other inconsistencies filtered throughout the game.
“Tipperary amazingly had three disallowed goals on the day and I’d really like to know what the referee blew for when Michael Breen’s first one was wiped off. He didn’t make a signal to explain his decision from where I watched in the stadium.
“I’m led to believe it was for a chop on Matthew O’Hanlon, but looking down from the stand I didn’t see where there was a free. O’Hanlon never had control of the sliotar. If it was for the push in the back, that would be a very soft free.
“You’d really like a quicker decision for John McGrath’s disallowed goal, even if it was correct. You’d like a fourth official, or whoever it may be to be a lot faster onto that if the ball has gone over the bar. That would, at least, help out the referee a bit.
The whole situation surrounded the cancelling of Jake Morris’ goal was very confusing, to say the least. Even the aftermath of it was baffling. First, the ref’s hands went out for a penalty and then it was changed to a free-in.
Everyone wants to see the advantage rule used by referees, but that would have been a huge talking point had Tipp lost the game. The goal should have been given. If Tipp had been beaten after that decision, they would have been savage over it”.
Kelly feels that some of the criticism aimed at Cleere was unfair and lamented that the standard of refereeing detracted from the hurling on show.
“It was really sad watching the Sunday Game have to focus on the performance of the referees in both semi-finals over the weekend and maybe at this level the time has come to introduce a second ref.
“I felt sorry for Sean Cleere afterwards, especially when you scroll through social media and he’s getting it in the neck.
“Cleere was appointed to this game a week ago, so it would have been very on unfair to withdraw him on Saturday night after Kilkenny won. It would have been unfair on Wexford and Tipperary too, because they would have done their analysis on him. But, Kilkenny winning the night before put Cleere in a very tough spot.
“It gave supporters on both sides more ammunition to throw at him. There should have been a bit more forward planning from the GAA when he was appointed in the first place.”
Kelly, who is a member of Liam Sheedy’s backroom panel, praised Tipperary’s resiliance following McGrath’s sending off and Lee Chin’s subsequent goal that left them trailing Wexford by five points with 20 minutes remaining in the game.
During that last period, the Premier County outscored their opponents by 0-12 to 1-2 with four out of their five substitutes finishing on the scoresheet.
Kelly believes it was the county’s best display at Croke Park.
“Sunday’s win over Wexford was one of the greatest Tipperary performances of all time and one of the finest that I’ve ever witnessed in Croke Park. Everything that was thrown at them was confronted – whether it was refereeing decisions, being down to 14 men or whatever Wexford came with.
“Once they went down to 14 men, the key thing for Tipp was that they didn’t start driving the ball down the field. They stayed composed and found their men.
“They matched the warrior spirit with calm hurling and that was evident with Brian Hogan’s free that Jake Morris latched onto for the point to seal it. He got advice from Liam Sheedy to stick it in the corner and it worked out. Morris was one of a few Tipperary subs that came on to make massive contributions and maybe that wasn’t the case in previous games.
“The bench contributed four points and Tipperary won by two, so that was a huge impact from the subs.”