“The referee could have picked anyone of about twenty players there and sent them off.”
These words from Colm O’Rourke are a fair summation on the most legendary Meath-Mayo brawl.
Every fan knows of the massive Meath-Mayo brawl that took place during the 1996 All-Ireland Final replay at Croke Park.
Through the beauty of youtube, we all know how Pat Spillane analysed the fracas on that evening's Sunday Game.
Only recently has footage of the half-time RTE punditry become widely available.
The clip, which features GAA presenter Michael Lyster, and pundits Martin Carney and Colm O’Rourke, is most notable for the various quips from O’Rourke, who is himself a Meath GAA icon.
Rather humorously, O’Rourke derides the ‘dirty’ fighting between the two sides in comparison to the more ‘manly’ ‘punch’ fighting between just two men.
In fairness to O’Rourke, his point has merit as the brawl features many incidences of players being blindsided by fists to the back of the head, flying kicks, and players being singled out and outnumbered.
Arguably the most amusing part of the punditry is when O’Rourke mentions that “the referee could have picked anyone of about twenty players and sent them off”, before, almost immediately after, mentioning that “he could have picked five or six.”
In the end it was Meath’s Colm Coyle and Mayo’s Liam McHale who received their marching orders, with the evidence showing it to be rather unfair on McHale who as Lyster notes “seemed to be getting more hit than hitting.”
While the pundits do seem fairly flabbergasted at the situation, it is far from the outcry that would occur had the incident happened today, and shows the more relaxed nature of GAA from a bygone era.
See Also: Eoin Murphy: 'It Was The Best Day Of My Life, No Question About It'