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Thursday 8 December 2016

GAA digs its own Christy Ring tunnel

Dublin’s Michael Carton bursts past Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly during their Leinster SHC semi-final replay in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise in June 2013. Picture credit: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Dublin’s Michael Carton bursts past Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly during their Leinster SHC semi-final replay in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise in June 2013. Picture credit: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

All's well that ends well? The Christy Ring Cup replay will go ahead after all, on a date that's mutually acceptable to the hurlers of Meath and Antrim.

That's the positive spin to put on this week's Ring Cup fiasco, farce or whatever other 'F' word takes your alliterative fancy.

This column isn't big on positivity, however, and is more inclined to wonder why it took almost five days to sort out one human error in a logical, equitable and, above all, speedy fashion.

Only in the GAA?

First up, though, let's be thankful for the small mercy that, however belatedly, the Central Competitions Control Committee was able to fix a replay date that gives Meath and Antrim a chance to refocus on the hurling after all the off-field confusion.

Meath wouldn't/couldn't play this Saturday in Newry. Antrim certainly couldn't be expected to play on Saturday week, with an Ulster semi-final already scheduled for the following evening.

UNIQUE

And so, "given the unique circumstances involved", the CCCC agreed to Meath's request for a postponement and the replay will take place on Sunday, June 25, at 5pm. And in Croke Park, better again.

So everyone should be semi-satisfied with this compromise - but they can hardly be happy with the mess leading up to it.

Some observers have wondered aloud why these scoreline errors don't happen more often, especially in hurling. Well, sorry, we don't buy it - not in big inter-county matches and certainly not in Croke Park.

Are referees susceptible to error? Yes. Contrary to cloven-hooved stereotype, they are human after all. Can the referee and scoreboard simultaneously blunder? Again, evidently yes.

But in a venue where Hawk-Eye is accompanied by linesmen, fourth officials, assessors, and an army of blazers on official patrol, the least that players deserve is an error-proofing system to spot such major mistakes in real time.

PHANTOM

If there's a potential problem, check and recheck before you rush to present the cup. If reporters were frantically scanning their notes in search of that phantom extra Meath point, surely the GAA should have been equally on red alert?

Last Saturday's controversy called to mind the Offaly/Clara saga in '98, when Jimmy Cooney was quickly ushered off the field as Faithful fury erupted.

If the GAA had paused for a second then to check what had just happened (Cooney had blown his full-time whistle early, in error) the two teams could have been brought back to finish those last few minutes. And maybe Clare, not Offaly, would have ended the season as hurling champions.

Likewise, last weekend, even a quick double-check of the TG4 footage might have delivered clarity and extra-time, not the drawn-out debacle that followed.

Speaking of which, once the referee had confirmed his mistake, the CCCC had only one option. But why did it take until Tuesday, three days later, to formally announce a replay?

Don't give us that bank holiday excuse: this was but another example of bad time-keeping by the GAA.

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