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Why The GAA Needs Refs Who Are Heartless Brutes With No Common Sense

Why The GAA Needs Refs Who Are Heartless Brutes With No Common Sense
By Conor Neville
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On forums following the CHC's bewildering decision to rescind Kevin Keane's red card near the end of the All-Ireland quarter-final between Mayo and Donegal, a number of Mayo supporters were determined to stoutly defend the decision.

The CHC had merely applied some good old fashioned common sense, they said. They had ignored all the 'letter of the law crawthumpers' as one commenter put it, shown some compassion, and decided that it wasn't worth barring the lad from an All-Ireland semi-final.

The CHC had examined Kevin Keane's offence and found that the 'infraction, as alleged, was not proven'. The infraction, as alleged, was a striking offence. The tariff for a striking offence or an alleged striking offence is an automatic red card. The members of the appeals committee were heroically unmoved by the television footage of the infraction taking place.

The penalty for an obvious striking offence was not applied. The rule was forsaken. Common sense had prevailed.

As a concept, 'common sense' enjoys a near unimpeachable reputation with the general public. You will rarely hear a bad word said about it.

Yet we continually hear now that what players crave is consistency. All they want is the ruthless, impersonal application of the rules. Same for everyone. Identical infractions punished the same way every time.

Very frequently one hear pundits lamenting the lack of consistency before wondering why oh why can we not just have a little more common sense.


Except that once common sense enters into the equation, consistency is fatally compromised. The very concept of common sense is philosophically flawed. Sociologists have long argued that it is simply a misnomer.Because, everyone's conception of what constitutes common sense is different.


As soon as one argues for more common sense in officiating, one is opening the door to more arbitrary and frustrating decision making.

Common sense, in a GAA context, essentially means by-passing the rulebook, and simply governing the game according to one's own lights.


One now sees the perils of the CHC employing 'a bit of oul' common sense' in the Kevin Keane case. Diarmuid Connolly was dragged to the ground by Lee Keegan late in yesterday's game. He was running towards goal looking to get in position for a return pass. Keegan's decision to drag to him to the ground off the ball was an act of breathtaking, and breathtakingly frank, cynicism. It was on a par with what the same player did towards the end of the Mayo-Galway game in Pearse Stadium.

It can only have infuriated Connolly. He reacted and threw a couple of digs while Keegan was on the ground.

Now, Dublin fans are claiming that the precedent was set with the Kevin Keane case and are arguing that Connolly should get off. And one can see why.


Referees should not be swayed by compassion (for instance, refusing to send a player off early or giving a trailing team a handy penalty) or the diktats of common sense.

For the most part they aren't (and Pat McEnaney has delivered a sterling and thought-provoking defence of Joe McQuillan's performance yesterday here) and the biggest culprits in all this are the appeal bodies.

Referees should be guided by the rulebook and nothing more. Only then, will we achieve the holy grail of consistency.


And 'common sense' should be banned from the GAA lexicon.

Read more: INTERVIEW: Pat McEnaney Disputes That Philly McMahon Head-Butted Aidan O'Shea



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