In Monday's Irish Examiner, referee Brian Gavin wrote that it would be an 'injustice' if David Gough wasn't appointed referee for the All-Ireland football final. Speaking later that day on the Irish Examiner's GAA podcast, former Kerry manager said it would be an 'injustice' if David Gough was appointed referee for the All-Ireland football final.
Clearly someone is wrong here, although both men seem to be mistaken about the definition of 'injustice'.
When Maurice Deegan and Conor Lane were picked to ref last weekend's semifinals, there was a clear sense that Gough was the front-runner to referee the All-Ireland final. Despite a number of high-profile clangers over the years - including two notable ones against Kerry - Gough has unquestionably been the best referee in Ireland this year. Considering the GAA's diversity campaign BELONG has been running for the 2019 season, the timing seems right for Gough, who's openly gay, to get the whistle for his first All-Ireland final.
But on the Examiner podcast, Fitzmaurice and Mike Quirke present the 'Kerry' perspective that Gough should be 'precluded' because he lives in Dublin and teaches in Templeogue at St Pius X primary school. Coincidentally that school that supplies many players to Kevin McManamon's club St Jude's. Fitzmaurice says:
“Of course when David Gough goes out to referee a match he is trying to be neutral and impartial, I am not questioning that, but it can’t be fair that if you are living and working in a place, that you get to referee an All-Ireland final involving that county.
“It’s tough on him, he is a very good referee, and Dublin are there every year. (But) I do genuinely think from his own perspective, there’s huge pressure on him. I wouldn’t look on it as punishing him. If you live and work in a place it rules you out. It’s very hard in that instance. If Kerry get a couple of calls (in the final), he is going to have a miserable winter listening to Dubs telling him he denied them the five in a row.”
When describing Gough's geographical conflict of interest, Fitzmaurice also references the high profile mistakes that Gough made in the 2016 All-Ireland football semifinal between Kerry and Dublin - both the free that wasn't called when McManamon flattened Peter Crowley and '7 other decisions' that wrongly went against Kerry that day.
Dig a little deeper online and you get a sense of where the unease with Gough emanates from. There seems to be a fear that by osmosis, Gough will have contracted an affinity for Dublin. Gough, it turns out, once posed for a photograph with Sam Maguire at St Jude's.
— George Savage (@GeorgeSavage2) August 30, 2016
Gough also coached St Jude's players for Pius X in the Cumann na mBunscol a few years ago.
On the podcast, Quirke makes the point that a referee from Cork who works in Kerry would not be chosen to ref a Kerry-Dublin. That's likely true, but it misses a bigger point. Kerry is not Dublin. More than half a million people live in Dublin. Gough lives and works around people from all over the country (and indeed the world), not just people from Dublin. Perhaps Fitzmaurice et al do not properly appreciate the existence of the countryperson living in Dublin, especially during this era of Dublin domination. The countryman who lives in Dublin is a vital GAA citizen; a blue jersey is not dispatched to everyone who purchases a property within the confines of the capital. Indeed living in Dublin and being around Dublin supporters might be the best way to cultivate real disdain for this great Dublin team.
A man who referees for a pastime, who spends his Sunday's having his eyesight and objectivity questioned must appreciate the value of maintaining impartiality more than most people. Brian Gavin saliently points out that David Coldrick works in Dublin and his objectivity has never been questioned. Not even after the 2015 All-Ireland final, when he failed to discipline Philly McMahon for an alleged eye gouge of Kieran Donaghy
We wonder would this argument be surfaced now had Kerry not been on the receiving end of two of Gough's biggest clangers: the McManamon 'foul' on Peter Crowley in 2016 and the Darran O'Sullivan black card in the semi-final replay against Mayo in 2017.
Given the high-profile refereeing mistakes in the All-Ireland hurling semifinals, the GAA needs its best referee officiating its landmark occasion. The match will come with added scrutiny given Dublin's 5-in-a-row pursuit. Gough refereed Dublin vs Cork without spectacle or controversy. The man clearly is not biased towards Dublin.
As was said in our office today by our videographer Shane Cahill, if anything, being born in Meath should disqualify Gough from refereeing a Dublin match. We don't expect to hear any Dubs complaining about this however.