Referees on the brink
Urgent meeting called to sort out ‘issues’
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.