The enemy is the referee, naturally. All these outbreaks of player and public disorder. Sure who else could be to blame but the man charged of a matchday with controlling 30 keyed-up males (when was the last time you saw violence in a ladies football or camogie match?); and both management teams; and the subs; and the myriad hangers-on; and the baying hordes behind the wire. Yep, it can only be one man’s fault. Every time.
No sooner had the season begun, indeed even before the National League throw-in, Leitrim boss Mickey Moran was making mincemeat of Gaelic football’s experimental rules, or rather those asked to enforce them.
In the build-up to their Division 4 opener in Ballinamore, which Waterford, still unbeaten, won, the Derryman blasted the changes and those who made them.
John Owens’ predecessor as Déise bainisteoir, John Kiely, who was on the committee that came up with the trial laws, predicted at the turn of the year that they’d be shot down without so much as a first chance, never mind a second.
“There seems to be a group, led by somebody, pushing all these rules”, ventured Moran, hardly oblivious, surely, to the fact that a dedicated working group was set up by Croke Park to produce them.
As far as he’s concerned, and he’s not alone, they’re misguided. “I think there is too much talk about the rules of Gaelic football and not enough about the people who implement the rules… They need to help to get the referees to be confident, get them up to a level of fitness [and] to a high standard.”
Claiming, a tad unconvincingly, that “this is not blaming referees”, Moran clarified, “I blame Croke Park” for their failure to “get the referees up to speed… If they did you might see everybody enjoying the game again.”
There are plenty of bad refs out there, granted. Just like there are a whole lot of players who aren’t exactly the reincarnation of Jack O’Shea. But whatever about their fitness — and in fairness you’d want to be Usain Bolt with the Eye of Providence to see a fraction of what you’re supposed to nowadays — it isn’t the referees who prompt/permit some players to be cynical, crude, violent. I’m not saying it’s (all) the managers’ fault either — and the perplexing application of the laws was evident in Waterford’s draw with Carlow on Saturday — but they’re best placed to stop people flouting the most basic rule that will never change: fair play.
In saying that, maybe some refs would be better off being a bit faster on their feet. If only so they could flee from certain players. And managers. And supporters. And… sure you know the ‘running’ order by now.