Hurling and camogie

Waterford would be better to accept their losses, following Cork's best example

Waterford duo Conor Gleeson and Austin Gleeson were involved in unsavoury incidents during their county's SHC semi-final win over Cork

I grind my teeth every time that BBC TV quiz show 'Eggheads' reaches the 'sudden death' stage and presenter Jeremy Vine tells the contestants that, instead of being shown three possible answers, 'There are no alternatives now'.

'THERE CAN ONLY BE TWO FLIPPING ALTERNATIVES, VINE!', I scream at the screen. Alternative means 'other/of two'.

Still, although I am a self-confessed pedant, I wasn't annoyed to hear Cork manager Kieran Kingston admit after Sunday's semi-final defeat by Waterford that "the best team won on the day".

He may well be proven right in the end, if the Decies win the All-Ireland.

Seriously, it was heartening that, even after being asked an opening question, Cork selector Pat Hartnett - who spoke before Kingston arrived in the press conference - made a point of declaring: "Well, firstly I'd like to say that the better team won on the day."

Cork could easily have complained about the officials failing to spot Waterford's Austin Gleeson pulling the helmet off their corner-forward Luke Meade midway through the first half.

Had that incident been dealt with appropriately the Mount Sion man should and, after the suspensions previously handed out this season to his team-mates Tadhg de Burca and Stephen Bennett, surely would have been sent off.

The extra man would have helped Cork. Worse still for Waterford, it would undoubtedly have severely hampered the sweeper system they have almost always deployed under the management of Derek McGrath.

Instead of Darragh Fives being free to cut out any wayward passes into the Cork attack or snap up loose ball, he might have had to do a man-marking job; even then, Cork would have had an extra body to create overloads wherever they wanted.

Yet Cork had the class and the courage not only to accept, but to publicly state, that Waterford had been the superior side, the better team.

Indeed only for an exceptional performance by Patrick Horgan, Cork would have been trailing far behind Waterford long before the Rebels were reduced to 14 men themselves, when their full-back Damien Cahalane received a second yellow card – and deservedly so - midway through the second half.

Horgan put in one of those performances which should really have earned him the 'man of the match' accolades even though his team ended up well-beaten, losing by 11 points.

Had they had an extra man from the 18th minute onwards, though, some of Horgan's fellow attackers would surely have started to join him more regularly on the scoreboard.

However, although they were desperately disappointed at the defeat, and proud of their players, Cork knew they had deserved to lose.

Yet if Cork demonstrated tremendous grace and class in their post-match comments, the same cannot be said for at least one member of the winning set-up.

It was far from heartening that Decies selector Dan Shanahan announced that they would contest Conor Gleeson's late red card, even though in the same breath he said that he hadn't seen the incident.

"I didn't genuinely see," he confessed, before adding: "Again, we have said we'll do what we have to do to get him back."

That would have to involve throwing the GAA rulebook into the bin.

It's tough on the Fourmilewater man having to miss an All-Ireland Final after doing such a fine man-marking job on Cork star Conor Lehane – but when he is suspended he will be paying the price for losing his discipline.

He struck Horgan with his hurl, a moment of madness that should cost him an All-Ireland Final appearance.

His namesake Austin really should miss out too.

There was plenty of sympathy for Waterford when they contested de Burca's semi-final suspension because many felt that his act of helmet interference was not deliberate. The same can hardly be said of Austin Gleeson's action.

Hurling is a tough game played by tough men, but there still have to be standards of behaviour. Dragging a helmet off could damage a face or even an eye, perhaps cause a neck injury.

The argument that 'he wasn't looking at the opponent when the incident happened' is dangerous too.

Galway defender Adrian Tuohy appears to have escaped punishment for dragging the helmet off Tipperary's Patrick Maher in their semi-final meeting on that basis.

Would people make the same case when someone throws an elbow back in football and smashes teeth, or a cheekbone, or an eye socket? It's a ludicrous defence and one that could license thuggery.

I once received a 'phone call from an irate relative of a minor footballer after I had reported that me merited his red card for throwing back an elbow.

The caller claimed for some time that 'He didn't know he was there', an argument I repeatedly rejected, pointing out that the player he elbowed was chasing and harrying him.

Eventually, the angry relative changed tack, and finally exploded: 'Sure he was hanging out the back of him!'

The implication was that the elbowed player got what he deserved.

Players do get provoked, but that does not excuse violent retribution.

Just because hurlers are protected by faceguards doesn't mean they can't be hurt by someone hauling off their helmet.

It would be great if more would show the same levels of honesty and decency as the Cork hurling mentors did, rather than trying to defend players who have clearly done wrong and exploring all legal avenues to get them off the hook.

The alternative to doing the right thing is doing wrong.

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Hurling and camogie