THE best way Mickey Harte can prepare for next week's All Ireland final is by seeking an urgent meeting with Croke Park to find out exactly what to expect from the referee. After analysing recent games for seven hours, I have found that Kerry have clearly been regularly breaking the rule on illegal handpassing and, if it is not stopped, Tyrone will be at a major disadvantage.
When Kerry played Monaghan last month they were guilty of throwing the ball on 40 occasions and not one of these fouls was penalised by Maurice Deegan, who is next Sunday's referee. Of Kerry's scores, 1-6 came from foul handpasses and a further point was incorrectly allowed as Kieran Donaghy handpassed over the bar. The rule requires him to fist it.
In Kerry's drawn game against Cork in the All Ireland semi- final, Joe McQuillan disallowed a Kerry goal as a result of an illegal handpass in the lead-up. However, in the replay Kerry were guilty of 35 illegal handpasses. Eleven more meanwhile were borderline. Kerry scored 3-14 but six of these points should not have counted. They won the game by four points.
We hear so much from analysts about the overuse of handpassing, but never about illegal handpassing.
Next Sunday, Deegan must penalise all fouls including foul handpasses. This game will be the biggest test of his career. But while football referees receive a lot more criticism than their hurling counterparts, the significant difference that exists between the officiating in both is such that on detailed analysis it is perfectly clear we have two entirely different standards.
The number of frees awarded in hurling games do not represent anything near the number of fouls. However, if all the fouls that occur in hurling were penalised the actual playing time would be less than 20 minutes. But the tolerance is quite astonishing. Just take last Sunday's final between Kilkenny and Waterford. There were a litany of fouls that went unpunished such as blatant over-carrying, throw balls as well as serious aggressive fouls.
In the 52nd minute John Mullane was struck in the face with the hurley by Tommy Walsh who was already on a yellow card. The referee Barry Kelly did not issue either a yellow or a red card. This was a straight red-card offence under rule 5 of the Official Guide Part 2. Michael Duignan didn't help matters either when he referred to it as sensible refereeing because there were 22 points in it. The disparity in the scores is irrelevant. Under rule 1.2(v) of the Rules of Control the referee has a duty to control the game. He does not have the authority to ignore applying the rules under any circumstances.
In the 64th minute TJ Reid of Kilkenny was struck with the hurley of Waterford's Kevin Moran. This was also a red-card offence. What followed was quite astonishing. Sixteen seconds after the foul was committed Kelly gave the Waterford player a warning and walked away. Thirty-three seconds later he issued a yellow card to Moran. I wonder will the CCCC seek clarification from Kelly in relation to these incidents because football referees have been asked to review instances (and rightly so) where they may have erred in not issuing red cards?
Amazingly, these two serious fouls were neither commented on nor shown on the Sunday Game. It almost seems hurling analysts think that rules do not apply to hurling.