I watched the Ladies Gaelic Football All Ireland final yesterday and saw an excellent Meath team comprehensively defeat Kerry, to achieve a two in a row of senior finals.
The performance of the referee spoiled my enjoyment, however. And I would be surprised if many others were not also frustrated with Maggie Farrelly’s performance.
I am aware that Farrelly has raised her profile greatly in the last couple of years becoming, if memory serves me correctly, the first woman to referee a men’s senior football final in her native, Cavan.
I am sure, therefore, that she is a good referee. She has achieved a lot and we need good referees.
But her performance yesterday was too fussy, too whistle happy, failing to implement the advantage rule.
Time after time she called a player back to award a free when her team was in a far better position to punish the opposition if she had let the penalised team continue playing.
I am all in favour of the rules being applied consistently and fairly.
But Vicky Wall broke through a foul tackle in the midfield area in the second half yesterday, delivered a 40 yard pass to a teammate who was then in front of goal but the Farrelly called the play back to award the free for the foul.
It was a stupid decision that was repeated throughout the match and it was clear the players were getting frustrated.
It was as if the match was about the referee and not the players.
And to cap it all she sent off Vicki Wall late in the game for repeated fouling. This was an appalling decision as most of Wall’s transgressions were frees given against her for running in a straight line and breaking tackles by going fairly and genuinely for the ball.
One of these fouls, for example, was in the second half when Wall competed fairly for a high ball-a kick out from the Kerry goalkeeper-and one of the Kerry girls got knocked over in the fair contest. A free was given against Wall.
Farrelly set the tone in the first minute of the game by penalising Wall for charging. It was as if she was out to show, from an early stage, that she, Farrelly, was in charge.
Wall paid the price for Farrelly’s fussy refereeing as she ended up in the stand with a yellow card and in the sin bin when the final whistle blew.
She should have been on the pitch with her teammates. There was an avoidable injustice in this.