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'It seems big teams get the big calls. Referees know all these players by first name' - Cavan boss

Mickey Graham says the lower division sides “aren’t cute enough” in trying to influence games.

CAVAN MANAGER MICKEY Graham believes that referees are inclined to award important decisions to “big teams” during games.

mickey-graham-talks-to-his-team Mickey Graham with his Cavan players after their win over Monaghan last month. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Graham, who has led the Breffni county back to another Ulster final, also suspects that referees are more familiar with these top players as they officiate at their games more frequently.

His comments come after Cavan rallied from an eight-point deficit at half-time to defeat Down at the weekend and book their place in the provincial decider.

Cavan were awarded a penalty in that game, which was duly dispatched by Martin Reilly, but there were other refereeing decisions that didn’t go their way. Speaking to the media in the days before their Ulster final showdown against reigning holders Donegal, Graham was asked if he felt his charges were getting their fair share of frees this season.

“I think we have only scored three scoreable frees in three games,” he replied. “That tells its own story.

It always seems the big teams get the big calls. Do they get the easier calls? Probably at times, the referees know all these players by first names. Players know the referees. They can get at them and influence them. Maybe the lesser teams just aren’t cute enough to do that.”

Elaborating on his theory about the more powerful county teams getting preferential treatment from referees, Graham added:

“The top teams are probably playing regularly with the top referees and they probably know them a lot better. At times, they seem to be able to communicate stuff to referees, whereas if we ask a question, we’re basically told to go away!

Teams do train for that, getting referees onside, getting umpires onside. Some big calls can be made and influence a game.

“You see it all the time when you’re watching sport. Sometimes the big calls go for the big teams. That’s just the nature of it.”

michael-murphy-1112020 Donegal's Michael Murphy. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ahead of the Ulster final, Donegal boss Declan Bonner made a plea on behalf of Michael Murphy and called for his star man to get better protection from referees. Bonner said Murphy gets “special treatment” from the opposition, and suspects that it might be linked to his status in the game.

Graham, however, doesn’t quite agree with Bonner’s assessment. 

“I’d say it’s the other way around,” he says.

“The other players don’t get much protection from Michael Murphy. A big man like that, well able to look after himself.

The Donegal boys, they’re great footballers but they can also play the game as well. They know exactly what’s needed to be done.


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“Maybe, we need protection from Michael Murphy ourselves!”

When asked if he considers Donegal to be a top team in the context of his comments about those outfits getting a higher free count, he responded:

“Donegal are a top team. They’re cute out.

“They’re not up there for nothing. It’s not all about football. It’s about how you play the situation that you find yourselves in.

We’re probably a bit naive down here in Cavan because we haven’t been dining at the top table for a long time. We need to get a wee bit cuter down here.”

Cavan have already endured a long season of games since the resumption. This Sunday’s clash with Donegal will be their sixth competitive outing since the restart of the National League.

They’ve also had to contend with mucky and wintry conditions on matchdays, which Graham notes has resulted in tired bodies among the squad.

Water breaks are still a feature in matches as part of the Covid-19 restrictions. They were introduced during the club season in the summer when the weather was warmer, but Graham feels they no longer serve a purpose in the winter championship.

“I don’t think they are necessary. Maybe after the league games and when teams got back up to speed, they should have been done away with because they do break up the momentum of the game.

“If you are in the ascendancy, you don’t want the game to stop. Also, if you are under the cosh, you don want the game to stop. It has its benefits as well.”


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