When Tony Pulis decided to give his best always-bring-the-cornflakes-when-going-abroad performance after Luis Suarez’s dive in Liverpool’s recent match with Stoke City, he could not have anticipated that his words would have an impact on events in the middle of the League of Ireland. A few weeks later, Seán Maguire would get booked for a dive in Waterford United’s match against Dundalk in the RSC, one of a spate of yellow cards dished out in the aftermath of the stink surrounding Suarez’s dive. I say this on an anecdotal basis without any stats to back it up, but it felt that way as referees reacted to a universal feeling that diving was a problem that they had been indulging it. Seáni had reason to feel aggrieved because he hadn’t dived and would probably have gotten a penalty but for a sudden bout of puritanism on the part of the officials that didn’t exist a few weeks before.
All of this came to mind when De La Salle’s bid for the Munster club title were effectively knackered by the sending-off of John Keane in the closing moments of the first half of today’s game against Thurles Sarsfields. The blood was probably pumping a bit too fast after Paidí Nevin’s cracking goal had trimmed Sarsfields’ lead to two points. Squaring up with Sarsfields full-forward, Keane gave him the mildest of clips across the hip and the ref duly whipped out the red card. The reaction of Keane (see above) said it all. When you consider some of the savagery that has been permitted in recent times, most notably the All-Ireland semi-final between Tipperary and Kilkenny in August, he would have reason to look to the heavens and ask “why me?”
Alas for Keane, he probably would have gotten away with it as recently as last week. But referees are now operating in the environment created by the aftermath of Eoin Shaughnessy’s insouciance in the face of Johnny Maher’s antics towards the end of the Galway county final last Sunday:
What should be acknowledged is the referee today got it right when he sent John Keane off. The rules are crystal clear – “To strike or to attempt to strike an opponent with a hurley, with minimal force” is a red card offence. It comes under the same category of infractions as spitting and abusive language to an official. And I don’t buy the defence that the game will be brought to ruination by supposedly over-officious refereeing. There’s no place in the game for striking with your hurley. However, De La Salle will have the entire winter to bitterly reflect that officials have being ignoring stuff that borders on brutality in recent years, and it’s only now after Maher’s moronic performance went unpunished that referees have suddenly remembered that part of the rule book. I have no doubt that the referee today did not want to be seen to ‘do a Shaughnessy’. It would be nice if this policy of applying the rule book stuck. It’ll be too late for John Keane and De La Salle though.
Update 28/11/2012: great minds think alike/fools seldom differ (delete as applicable). Donal O’Grady was thinking along the same lines as I was watching John Keane’s dismissal. Meanwhile, Brian McDonnell has a thorough (scarily so) summary of the various attitudes to the road hurling has headed down on his blog.