Off The Fence

Off The Fence: Late penalty decision in Sligo has Armagh supporters crying foul

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney kept his counsel after a controversial penalty decision in Sligo cost his side a point
Compiled by Brendan Crossan

THERE’S nothing like an early-season conspiracy theory to get the ball rolling. Last weekend, it was in the picturesque surroundings of Markievicz Park that prompted some Armagh readers to email Off The Fence to express their dismay at the late decision that denied the Orchard men two League points instead of one.

At one stage, Armagh held a six-point advantage over their hosts Sligo but an alleged shirt tug led to a last-gasp penalty from Adrian Marren that enabled the Yeats County to level things up in stoppage-time and grab an unlikely share of the spoils.

‘DERMOT’ was livid with the decision, but was encouraged by the overall performance of the side last Sunday.

“We have a very talented Armagh forward line at the moment of which Jamie Clarke, Ethan Rafferty, Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan should be four certain starters in the forward line and all can take a score,” emailed ‘Dermot’.

“The bigger problem is the amount of times Armagh, including last year’s League campaign have blown healthy leads. It’s becoming a bad habit.

“On the plus side, I thought we played well on Sunday - well above Sligo, yet we were undone by a horrendous decision that even the Sligo fans agreed was never a penalty.

“We have had no luck with officials; last year’s League was the same.

“Any 50-50 decisions are not going our way,” added ‘Dermot’.

“Typical of the referee’s performance, he somehow felt five minutes of added time was needed to be added on and award a penalty one minute over that.

“If I was Kieran McGeeney I would have been livid. But keep the faith lads.”

RESPONSE: By all accounts, the late penalty decision had everyone in Markievicz scratching their heads. But the last thing you want is for players to start feeling sorry themselves.

The focus of attention in training this week will not be a controversial refereeing decision – it will be throwing away a match-winning lead.

Armagh’s game-management has to be better if they are to gain promotion to Division Two.

ANOTHER Armagh supporter was equally miffed at Roscommon ref Patrick Neelan’s late penalty decision.

“I just hope that this year’s League and Championship when we reflect in September we are not talking about controversial decisions by referees that cost teams who train all year,” he writes.

“What we want this year is for referees not to become the centre of attention.

“What went on in Sligo when Patrick Neelan of neighbouring county Roscommon gave Sligo every advantage and free he could.”

“Even Sligo supporters couldn’t believe it. Next Sunday we have David Gough from Meath and another Leinster team in Laois up here.

“Armagh supporters are very angry – let’s hope Mr Gough can restore some faith in referees.”

RESPONSE: Of course there will be the usual high number of controversial refereeing decisions this year. When the tackle is only roughly defined, you will always encounter problems and talking points 'til the cows come home.

Given the speed of the inter-county game it really begs the question is one referee sufficient to handle games, particularly when umpires and linesmen appear to be passive in many situations?

Despite David Gough’s failure to give Peter Crowley a free in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Kerry, the Meath man is still one of the best on the inter-county circuit. Your faith, hopefully, will be restored on Sunday

‘BENNY’ is angered by the perceived lack of vision in Director-General Paraic Duffy’s Championship proposals and feels a two-tiered system is coming down the tracks in the GAA.

“So the GAA will get €80 million from Sky over the next five years,” writes ‘Benny’.

“[Paraic] Duffy wants to shorten the county fixture calender by bringing in a new tournament at the quarter-finals stage.

“That should help free up club players and dove-tail with the extra matches at the quarter-final stages on Sky.

“Club suppporters will still be coming out for Championship games on wet, dark and windy September October nights.

“A two-tiered system in GAA is fast developing. A lot of people are getting paid and there’s a lot of money floating around in one tier and a lot of volunteers in the other one. Can anyone else see the train coming down the line?”

UNDER the weird pen-name of ‘Quidnunc’, our last contributor is wondering why the Irish News sports department has not enquired into why Mickey Harte’s contract with the Tyrone County Board doesn’t extend beyond this summer.

“Not many would begrudge Mickey a few more successful years at the helm but what seems lacking in Irish News coverage is context,” texted ‘Quidnunc’.

“What are the reasons for the Tyrone County Board’s current attitude? Is it related to the seemingly intractable impasse between Mickey and RTE?

“Is it to do with sponsors feeling aggrieved at the comparative lack of brand coverage on TV?

“It’s time for Irish News journalists to get some answers from officialdom at Garvaghey.”

RESPONSE: The Tyrone County Board has remained tight-lipped over Mickey Harte’s contract arrangement.

In the close season, several Tyrone players expressed their disappointment over the lack of clarity with the managerial position beyond 2017.

On the Allstars trip, Mickey Harte was emphatic that pressure from sponsors and linking it to the media ban on RTE was a “myth”.

In the interview with Kenny Archer, Harte said: “The sponsors have never spoken directly about this being an issue at all. That's just stuff that gets into the grapevine, people repeat it and it becomes the truth…

“I am happy in what I am doing. If it turns out that somebody believes it is not good enough, well, that's their choice.”

Off The Fence

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