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How Joe Canning Would Make Hurling A Better Spectacle

How Joe Canning Would Make Hurling A Better Spectacle
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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This year's Munster hurling final between Clare and Limerick will go down as one of the greatest ever. It was a game filled with drama and skill, one Limerick edged by a goal after an epic 90 minutes.

One of the factors which facilitated an enthralling game was the refereeing of John Keenan. The Wicklow man allowed the game to flow, and not become a stop-start free-taking contest.

"I think it was one of the best refereeing performances I've seen in a long, long time," said Galway legend Joe Canning at the launch of Bord Gáis Energy’s ‘State of Play’ campaign.

"He added to the whole match. That was of the best matches, people would say, in the last 10 or 20 years, one of the greatest Munster finals, and without John Keenan refereeing it, you wouldn't have got the match that you got because he left the game flow. He pulled for frees when he had to pull for frees. He tried to make it a proper game of hurling. In fairness to him, he did. You have to commend him on that."

16 June 2022; Pictured is Bord Gáis Energy ambassador Joe Canning at the launch of Bord Gáis Energy's State of Play campaign to promote allyship and inclusion in team sports. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Canning feels we would get more matches refereed like the Munster final, and so make games a better spectacle, if officials were not worried about being docked marks by their assessor.


"Get rid of the assessor in the stand!" said Canning.

"I'm pretty sure John Keenan went into Croke Park and his assessor probably docked him a load of marks for things he didn't pull for. That's the sad reality of it.

"We played a league game, and my marker got a yellow card early, and then 10 or 15 minutes later, he hit me a tip down the back of the head, and I said to the referee, 'Listen, it's grand, I'm fine, don't worry about it'. "He said, 'No' and he brandished another yellow card, and sent your man off after 25 minutes. I was like, 'Why?'


"He came up to me after the match, and he said, 'Joe, I had to send him off because if I didn't give him a yellow card for that foul, hitting you in the helmet, I might not have got the next match'.


"To me, that was ridiculous, there was no common sense whatsoever. I wasn't hurt one bit, it was a pure accident. The referee was afraid he mightn't the next match because his assessor would have docked him marks."

5 June 2022; Referee John Keenan during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Limerick and Clare at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

On Wednesday evening, it was reported that Clare's Peter Duggan and Rory Hayes had their suspensions resulting from Munster final overturned. One-match bans had been proposed for the duo following retrospective disciplinary action after incidents were highlighted on the Sunday Game by Brendan Cummins and Shane Dowling. A two-match suspension had also been proposed for Galway's Cianan Fahy following a stamping incident put under a spotlight during the Leinster final.

"The issue I have with it is that the whole situation, especially with the Clare lads, is how it was brought to light," said Canning.


"The issue I have is that it one very much one-sided; it wasn't as impartial, and there were no highlights of Limerick players - it was just all Clare. That's the issue I have more so than anything, and how people influence that side of things.

"When you're in that position, you have to give both sides. Maybe there wasn't anything, but I'm just saying that it looked bad for me looking in, that it was just all about the Clare lads.

"What [Duggan and Hayes] did was wrong. What Cianan Fahy did was wrong. It's funny how a couple of days ago they had a match ban, two-match ban and next thing all of a sudden, they are free. There's some kind of flaw in the system.


"If you went down that road of looking at videos after matches, there would be lads suspended left, right, and centre. It's an injustice to John Keenan, especially, and everybody on that day that officiated.

"Sometimes, Ireland is a funny place, we always like to criticise; we don't like to big up anybody, we always like to shoot lads down. It's a bit of Irishness coming across in the last week.

"Why can't we talk about Tony Kelly's sideline to draw the game? That should have been what we were talking about in the last week or Declan Hannon's point in the last second to go a point up. Instead, we're talking about the negatives, and I don't know if that's any good for the sport.


As part of the campaign, Bord Gáis Energy, sponsor of the GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, has created 32 limited edition GAA County Pride t-shirts where county pride meets pride in supporting the LGBTQI+ community. The t-shirts are on sale from today at hairybaby.com for €20 and all proceeds will go to Focus Ireland to support young members of the LGBTQI+ community who are experiencing homelessness.

See Also: A Year Ago, Shane O'Donnell Thought He'd Never Play Hurling Again

joe canning hurling clare bans referee



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