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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO
# Referee's Review
Joe Canning: 'Get rid of the assessor in the stand'
Joe Canning believes assessors in the stands put too much pressure on referees.

THE SPOTLIGHT IS on the GAA appeals process. An annual occurrence. Regular as clockwork. Clare’s Peter Duggan and Rory Hayes and Galway forward Cianan Fahy have all been cleared to play in their respective All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals this weekend. 

Was there ever any doubt? 

Joe Canning knows the deal. Speaking as a Bord Gáis Energy Hurling to the Core ambassador at the launch of the County Pride T-shirts, he greets the first question with a knowing smile. Is the disciplinary process fit for purpose? He can see the headlines already. 

He’s not sure about the system. Who is? But there is no doubt where his sympathy lies.

john-keenan-issues-a-yellow-card James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“The system of how they got off, it is hard to know,” the 2017 Hurler of the Year says.

“I’m only just back in the country there this morning so I didn’t actually hear how they got off or what, but it is funny how a couple of days ago it was a match ban, two-match ban. All of a sudden they are free.

“Obviously, there is some kind of flaw in the system but if you go down that road of looking back at videos after matches, lads will be suspended left right and centre.

“It is an injustice to John Keenan especially. He did a great job in the game.

“In all honesty, it was one of the best referee performances I’ve seen in a long, long time. He added to the whole match. That was one of the best matches in the last 10, 20 years. One of the best Munster finals.

“Without John Keenan’s refereeing, you wouldn’t have got the game we got. He let the game flow. He pulled for frees when he had to.

“He tried to make it a proper game of hurling and you have to commend him on that. The suspensions are a bit harsh for his sake. He obviously didn’t see them on the day.”

Canning is a beacon of common sense. He shares concerns about how the Clare incidents came to light and the one-sided coverage surrounding it, but also says the players were wrong. 

bord-gais-energy-2022-pride-activity Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

His primary concern is not any issues within the system. It is the system itself. 

“You had a match there because the referee allowed it to be. He allowed it to be a physical 70-minute battle. Another referee refereeing that would not have got the Munster final. If you had a whistle-happy referee.

“I’m sure John Keenan went into Croke Park and his assessor docked him a load of marks, unfortunately, for things he didn’t pull for. That is the sad reality of it.

“Referees have a huge influence on the game. You saw it with John Keenan in the Munster final. He let the game flow. You saw it in other games where the whistle was blown. I think it was the Galway Dublin game in Leinster, did anyone watch the first half? The whistle going every few minutes. Stop-start. Stop-start. No flow to the game whatsoever.”

There is a clear problem. In recent years, the Galway man has been a strong advocate of one particular solution. He returns to the time they played Westmeath in a league match and he was being tracked by Aonghus Clarke.

“Get rid of the assessor in the stand. I’ve said it before. I told the story about we played a league game and my marker got an early yellow card. Fifteen minutes later he tipped me down the back of the head. Just a tip.

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“I said to the referee: ‘listen it is grand. I am fine. Don’t worry about it.’ He said no and brandished another yellow card, sent your man off after 25 minutes. I was like, What the f*ck? Why?

“He came up to me after and said, ‘Joe, I had to send him off. If I didn’t give him a yellow card for that foul hitting you in the helmet I might not be getting the next match.’ I told that story before.

“To me, that was ridiculous. No common sense whatsoever. I wasn’t hurt one bit. Pure accident. But yet, the referee was afraid he wouldn’t get the next match because his assessor would dock him marks.”

What’s more, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are other matters to discuss. Better matters. 

“It was a brilliant game and we’re here talking about suspensions unfortunately instead of talking about the great game we had.

“Ireland is a funny place. We always like to criticise. We don’t like to big up anybody. We always like to shoot people down.

“There is a bit of Irishness coming across, why can’t we talk about Tony Kelly’s sideline to draw the game? That is what we should be talking about or Declan Hannon’s point in the last second to go a point up.

“Instead we are talking about the negatives and I don’t know if that is any good for the sport either.”

To help promote allyship and inclusivity in team sports, Bord Gáis Energy has created 32 limited edition GAA County Pride t-shirts.

The t-shirts are on sale from today at Hairy Baby for €20 and all proceeds will go to Focus Ireland to support young adults from the LGBTQI+ community who are experiencing homelessness. The aim of these t-shirts is to encourage support for the LGBTQI+ community and showcase that the GAA is a place for everyone.

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