Ref­er­ees on the brink

Ur­gent meet­ing called to sort out ‘is­sues’

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT -

WICK­LOW GAA ref­er­ees have called an ur­gent meet­ing this week to try and claw their way back from the brink of a bit­ter dis­pute.

The meet­ing, to be held on Thurs­day night, has been called in the wake of a tense sit­u­a­tion at the SFL Di­vi­sion 1A league fi­nal re­play in Bal­li­nakill last Fri­day night when ref­er­ees Dar­ragh Byrne and Eu­gene O’Brien both ar­rived on the field to take charge of the clash be­tween AGB and Ti­na­hely.

Re­la­tions be­tween match of­fi­cials and the County Board ap­pear to have been strained for much of this sea­son with nu­mer­ous games played with­out li­nes­men or of­fi­cial um­pires, and de­lays in an­nounc­ing ref­er­ees for key games wide­spread late in the year.

Eu­gene O’Brien says that ref­er­ee­ing in Wick­low is ‘a cut­throat job at the minute’ and that there are ‘lots of is­sues’ within the ref­er­ee­ing com­mu­nity.

Dif­fi­cul­ties with the game on Fri­day night arose ear­lier that evening when Stephen Fagan, the ref­eree orig­i­nally ap­pointed to the game, had to va­cate the role due to a fam­ily mem­ber fall­ing ill with less than two hours to go to the game.

Dar­ragh Byrne, in­tend­ing to act as an um­pire at the game in Bal­li­nakill, was with Fagan at the time and says he made ef­forts to con­tact Kieron Kenny, a mem­ber of the of­fi­cial ap­point­ments com­mit­tee, but was un­suc­cess­ful.

Byrne then con­tacted the County Chair­man Mar­tin Fitzger­ald who ad­vised him to travel to the game and see what course of ac­tion to take when on the ground at Bal­li­nakill.

How­ever, Kieron Kenny says he has no missed com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Dar­ragh Byrne but says he did speak with Stephen Fagan at 6.55pm.

Hav­ing learned of the dif­fi­cul­ties, Kenny says he con­tacted Mick Ha­gan and it was de­cided to put Eu­gene O’Brien into the game. Kenny says he then con­tacted O’Brien about the game and sent him out the of­fi­cial text from the Ser­vas­port sys­tem telling him he had been ap­pointed to the fix­ture.

Mean­while, at Bal­li­nakill, Dar­ragh Byrne and li­nes­men Chris Cana­van (the of­fi­cial stand-in ref­eree for the game) and Philip Bracken had a dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing who should ref­eree the game dur­ing which it was de­cided that Byrne would take charge.

Dar­ragh Byrne says he was on the field in Bal­li­nakill wait­ing to start the game when Eu­gene O’Brien took to the pitch.

O’Brien says he told Dar­ragh Byrne that he was down to do the game. A frosty and brief ex­change is re­ported to have fol­lowed with O’Brien leav­ing the field and Byrne tak­ing charge of the con­test.

All the ref­er­ees in the county have been in­vited to this meet­ing to­mor­row night as the men in black look to sort out what ap­pears to have been a dif­fi­cult and uncer­tain year.

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