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Five Of The Biggest Hurling Controversies To Rock The GAA

hurling controversies

Cork great Seán Óg Ó hAilpín revisited one of the greatest sagas in hurling on The Sunday Game over the weekend by admitting his regrets over the Cork 2009 hurling strike. 

This prompted us to take a trip down memory lane to relive some of the biggest hurling controversies to rock the world of GAA.

Here are five of the most memorable hurling controversies.


The Tony Keady Affair

In 1989, one of Galway’s greatest servants, the late Tony Keady, was denied the chance to fight for a third All-Ireland title in a row with his side when he was banned for 12 months by the GAA for playing a game illegally in New York.

Galway enjoyed a three-month break between their National League and Championship that year and after spending time in the Big Apple with the All-Star team, Keady decided to lengthen his stay and during his time there, he lined out for the Laois team in an exhibition game against Tipperary under his brother’s name. The GAA found out and despite everyone’s insistence that he would be fine, Keady was suspended.

Naturally, the decision caused an uproar, as Cyril Farrell and Galway did everything they could to get their star man on the field for their All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary. As it turns out, the Premier County voted in favour of letting Keady play in the match but the four non-hurling counties in Connacht, much to the anger of the Galway following, voted against his appeal.

The ban stood. Tipperary won the semi-final that year and Keady retired with two All-Ireland medals to his name.


Offaly Sit-In 1998

Another major hurling controversy took place during the 1998 All-Ireland Hurling Championship when Clare and Offaly were forced to play their semi-final clash three times to decide a winner thanks to a controversial decision by the referee in the replay.

After referring to his players as “sheep in a heap” following their Leinster Final defeat that year, Offaly replaced manager Michael ‘Babs’ Keating with Michael Bond who led his side into an All-Ireland semi-final against Clare, the first of which they drew at 1-13 apiece.

However, their replay ended in disarray in Croke when the referee, Jimmy Cooney, mistakenly ended the game five minutes earlier with the scoreline reading 1-16 to 2-10 in favour of Clare. Naturally, the Offaly squad and fans were incensed by the decision and the supporters staged a sit-in protest on the pitch, forcing an intermediate game between Kerry and Kildare to be canceled.

The GAA had no choice but to ref-fix the semi-final replay and one week later, the saga inspired Offaly into one of their best performances that year and they came out on top before lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup two weeks later following victory over Kilkenny.


Cork’s Hurling Strike

Cork players famously went on strike three times throughout the 2000s, but as Seán Óg Ó hAilpín alluded to on The Sunday Game, the ugliest strike came in the 2008/09 season which ended in manager Gerald McCarthy having to step down after receiving death threats.

In late 2008, McCarthy was reappointed following the conclusion of his two-year deal and thus the unrest began as the Cork hurlers accused the county board of failing to implement the changes to appointment procedures agreed after the previous strike, which had only ended in February of that year. In January 2009, the panel from the previous year released a statement confirming their strike would go ahead while thousands marched on their behalf.

hurling controversies

The situation escalated as the months went on as the clubs were asked to put forward a motion of no confidence in McCarthy while Cork were forced to field weakened sides without their 2008 panel members in the early stages of the National League. The Rebels fell to three defeats in a row, the third of which came against Galway in front of a crowd of just 600 people.

The controversy eventually came to an end in March 2009 with McCarthy stepped down with immediate effect, stating that to continue would cause a safety risk to him and his family and the Cork hurling panel returned to play.

hurling controversy


Donal Tuohy Oversteps

Controversy overshadowed the Munster U21 hurling final between Clare and Tipperary in 2008 when goalkeeper Donal Tuohy was penalised late in the game leading to a winning score for the Premier County, much to the disgust of the Clare following.

The sides were level when referee John O’Mahony awarded a 20m free to the Banner County but as their free-taker was lining up his shot, the referee’s attention was drawn by an umpire at the other end of the pitch. A nervy consultation followed before the officials judged that the Clare goalkeeper was outside the square for his puck out leading to the referee reversing his decision to award a free, and handing Tipperary a 65 instead.

hurling controversies

Pa Bourke coolly slotted the score which proved to be the winning of the game. Immediately afterward, the pitch flooded with furious fans all charging in the direction of the referee and his officials who was escorted off the pitch by the Gardai. Despite calls for a replay, the final score stood and as the crowd heckled, Tipperary captain Seamus Hennessy thanked the referee in his winning speech.


Anthony Cunningham’s Ousting

One of the most talked-about hurling controversies to take place in the last decade was Anthony Cunningham’s departure as Galway manager in 2015 following a revolt by his own players.

The Galway native first took charge of his county’s senior side in 2011 and led them to an All-Ireland final the following year, though they walked away without the Liam MacCarthy Cup. A disappointing season followed in 2013 with a quarter-final championship exit before they were knocked out in the qualifiers the following year by Tipperary. In 2015, however, Cunningham led his team all the way to the final once more following a scintillating battle with Tipperary in the semi-final. Again, they fell to defeat at the hands of Kilkenny.

hurling controversies

It was confirmed in September 2015 that Cunningham would remain as manager having agreed to a two-year deal the year previous. This did not sit well with his players, however, who put forward a vote of no confidence in their manager. Despite efforts at mediation between the parties, the St Thomas’ man stepped down in November 2015. In his parting statement, Cunningham took aim at the players who had led the revolt against him.

“Despite extensive attempts at genuine dialogue including independent arbitration, there were no reasonable explanations offered or given as to the issues the players felt they had.

“They, through their actions, have shown scant respect for, and loyalty to, the goodwill shown to them by supporters, clubs and county GAA committees and management.

“I consider this a kangaroo court decision, led by a core group of players orchestrated with the help of others outside Galway, motivated by a desire to unjustly extend their lifespan as intercounty players, placing personal agendas above the greater good of Galway hurling.”

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter