This weekend thousands of Dublin children have been left on the sidelines after referees pulled out of fixtures due to incessant verbal abuse. Killarney Advertiser sports editor Adam Moynihan looks at the reasons behind the culture of abuse that exists in some of our favourite sports.
Of all the side hustles that exist, reffing amateur sport must be one of the strangest. I don’t know about you (maybe my ego is too big) but standing in a muddy field while several people verbally abuse me isn’t exactly my idea of #sundayvibes. But a game needs a referee more than any other individual. If a player, coach, or fan doesn’t show up, the show goes on.
Where would we be if the refs, having been told to ‘f- off’ by countless people on a weekly basis, actually did just that?
This week, players, coaches and parents in the North Dublin Schoolboys/Girls League and the Metropolitan Girls League have found out exactly what happens when the refs say, “no more”. Fed up with the level of verbal abuse directed their way during matches, officials have withdrawn their services for this weekend’s fixtures. At least 550 games have been postponed.
“This is a sad day for football and I hope we will learn from what is happening this weekend,” the leagues’ honorary secretary and CEO Tony Gains told clubs via an official communique.
“[Last] weekend a female referee refereeing her first game of three games was abused so badly from the time she entered the pitch, she decided that she is not taking any more of this abuse from these people and she has now decided to give up refereeing entirely.
“Another young referee who has only been refereeing for the past two months was petrified on the pitch, he was so afraid even to collect his gear. This abuse he took was absolutely disgraceful.”
You have to feel for the officials. They’re certainly not getting paid enough to put up with this kind of thing. No one is.
The biggest losers here are the young players who are missing out on what is probably the highlight of their week. Well, actually, they’re the second biggest losers here, after the grown adults who are harassing match officials at a children’s soccer match.
Sadly, reports of shameful abuse at juvenile sporting events are commonplace in Ireland. For some reason, perfectly respectable members of the community find it acceptable to lay into referees, coaches and players at a game. I think that’s a key word: ‘acceptable’. There seems to be this acceptable level of abuse in some of our favourite sports. It’s basically fine to swear at a referee in soccer and Gaelic games.
Rugby, it must be noted, is much different in this regard. My own experience with the sport is limited to a semester-long spell with a college team in New York but the manner in which the referees were treated was truly remarkable. It’s all “sir” this and “thank you” that.
In my first match, I took a quick tap-and-go that was destined to result in the first and only try of my ill-fated rugby career. I was streaking through unchallenged, happy but slightly conflicted as I recalled that rookie try-scorers had to run naked through the sports fields after their debut.
Sadly for me (and luckily for the students who were ambling around the State University of New York campus that autumn Sunday), the referee called play back. I had supposedly taken the penalty from the wrong spot. It was harsh and I was sickened. If it was soccer or football, I absolutely would have told the referee how I felt. But it just isn’t done in rugby, so I bit my tongue and got on with it. That’s the culture and, even though I was only involved in the sport briefly, I automatically bought into it.
Sometimes it is the less educated (in sporting terms) parents and fans who lose the run of themselves at matches. Maybe a poor understanding of the game is a factor here; every refereeing decision is potentially wrong when you don’t know the rules.
Other parents, and this is true of a lot of supporters in general, go after the ref out of a misplaced sense of loyalty. To many, the referee is not only not neutral, he’s actually one of “them”. A duplicitous secret agent in cahoots with the enemy. Every club has their “give him a jersey!” brigade. If that’s your attitude from the throw-in, abuse is almost inevitable.
And some parents and fans just can’t keep their emotions under control. Call it over-exuberance or being too passionate or being over-protective of their child or clubmate, whatever it is it can frequently lead to outbursts that they might well regret once the dust settles and the red mist clears.
Coaches regularly blow a gasket too. While it’s not necessarily forgivable, especially if it leads to a referee getting abused, this is a little more understandable, especially at senior level. Managers and selectors are under a lot of pressure to get results and when a decision goes against them it can decide their whole year, and ultimately impact their reputations.
People say there’s no point giving out to a ref. He’s not going to change his mind. That’s not why players and managers shout at referees. Firstly, they’re trying to influence the next decision, not the last one. It’s an attempt to guilt-trip the official into favouring them the next time he might be unsure of the correct course of action. Of course, this is often counterproductive. Why should the ref give you a break when you were abusing him from a height a matter of seconds ago?
Secondly, and I know this myself from whenever I give out to a ref, it’s often because the player has made a mistake him/herself.
If I’ve been turned over, or I’ve lazily drifted offside, that’s when I’m most likely to have a cut off the ref. It’s deflecting, pure and simple.
You’re annoyed with your own error but you can’t exactly verbally abuse yourself, can you? Fellas will be talking.
On more than one occasion I’ve witnessed a teammate absolutely tearing into the ref over some decision or other, and then swear blind in the dressing room that he was wronged. And we all sit there nodding our heads, despite knowing full well that it was the right call, and the teammate just messed up.
Sometimes by drawing attention to the referee, managers are also deflecting from their own shortcomings and the shortcomings of their team. Losing the plot over a stoppage time decision communicates to supporters that the ref is after screwing us here. “Sure what can we do when we’re playing against 16?”
And look, sometimes the anger is actually justified. Referees make mistakes, and that can be very annoying. Does that warrant verbal abuse, or physical intimidation as was the case in Dublin recently? Absolutely not. It’s possible to communicate to a ref that you think he has made a mistake without questioning his intelligence, eyesight or integrity.
The odd time alright you come across a ref who won’t listen to anyone, and that irritates me more than anything. It’s a bit like the bouncer who treats everyone like a potential troublemaker, despite the fact that most of us are just there to have a good time, bro.
I suppose it’s a defence mechanism. If you’re getting abused on such a regular basis, maybe it’s easier to assume that everyone is going to be a problem.
In my experience, the best referees have very open lines of communication with the players. They explain every decision clearly and you can explain your side (respectfully) without getting a dismissive response.
It’s a lot harder to lash someone who has been sound to you all day, even if he has just given a dodgy last-minute penalty to the opposition.
There’s no hard and fast solution to this blight on our games but the culture is wrong in the GAA and soccer and there’s no getting away from that. The Silent Sidelines initiative in the GAA is a fantastic idea and coaches say it works well. I would love to see the GAA adopting it wholesale, and the FAI too for that matter.
As for senior level, I think there needs to be a more zero-tolerance approach to verbal abuse – red cards and suspensions – and also accountability within the teams themselves.
We might sometimes view refs as the spoilsports but it’s pretty straightforward: no referee, no party.
Almost impossible to look beyond East Kerry but Dingle are best placed to challenge
Adam Moynihan breaks down the groups and likely contenders in the 2023 Kerry Senior Football Championship
Group 1: East Kerry, South Kerry, West Kerry, Templenoe
Defending champions East Kerry are on the hunt for their fourth county title in five years and with a talented squad that’s looking as stacked as ever, only the brave would back against them.
Rathmore’s promotion back to senior level means that Kerry players Shane Ryan and Paul Murphy are missing from last year’s nine-point final victory over Mid Kerry but East Kerry’s strength in depth in all sectors means that no individual player is irreplaceable – excepting the obvious.
David Clifford’s performance for the ages in Fossa’s landmark intermediate semi-final win over Stacks provided a stark reminder of his awe-inspiring talents. Paudie Clifford was excellent too and this year the Two Mile brothers are joined on the panel by four clubmates – another glaring indicator of how far Fossa have come.
James O’Donoghue must be considered an injury doubt after only managing a cameo in Legion’s last outing but his clubmates Brian Kelly, Jonathan Lyne, Darragh Lyne and Cian Gammell are all likely to feature. Current Kerry senior panelists Chris O’Donoghue and Darragh Roche (Glenflesk), Ronan Buckley and Ruairí Murphy (Listry), and Donal O’Sullivan (Kilgarvan) would also be expected to play their part, with plenty of young talent from all seven clubs hoping to break into the starting line-up.
Realistically, the holders should navigate Group 1 with little fuss with South Kerry, West Kerry and Templenoe battling it out for second.
South Kerry and Templenoe played out a draw in the group stage of last year’s championship so there might not be much between them this year either.
West Kerry will be aiming to pick up at least one result after losing all three of their fixtures in 2022.
VERDICT: East Kerry and Templenoe
GROUP 2: Kenmare Shamrocks, Rathmore, St Kieran’s, Feale Rangers
Kenmare came mightily close in the Senior Club final and they should be able to carry that momentum through to the County Championship. Seánie O’Shea is obviously their one bona fide match winner but they’re also strong around the middle third where James McCarthy, David Hallissey and Kevin O’Sullivan put in the hard yards.
The fact that Feale Rangers reached last year’s semi-final indicates that they’re on an upward trajectory. The question now is can they repeat the trick? In 2022 the team was backboned by Listowel Emmets players (seven started that defeat to Mid Kerry) and those lads are coming into this competition in confident form having secured a spot in the still-to-be-played Junior Premier final.
Rathmore are always a tough championship team and the Ryans (Cathal and Mark at midfield and Shane at full forward) are sure to be a handful for any opposition.
St Kieran’s have troubled decent teams in the not-too-distant past – although they lost all three group games (including one against Kenmare) a year ago.
VERDICT: Kenmare and Feale Rangers
GROUP 3: Mid Kerry, Spa, Kerins O’Rahillys, Shannon Rangers
In 2022, Spa found the going tough in a Group of Death that included East Kerry and Dingle. The draw has been kinder to them this time around and they would probably expect to beat Rahillys and Shannon Rangers.
The wheels came off against Dingle in this year’s Senior Club Championship but they impressed the week before against Kenmare. Dara Moynihan, Evan Cronin and Cian Tobin will be important players in attack, with Dan O’Donoghue manning the midfield and Shane Cronin protecting their defensive third from number 6.
Mid Kerry, runners-up last season, will provide their sternest test in this pool. A lot of eyes (including those of Jack O’Connor) will be on Cillian Burke after his heroics for Milltown/Castlemaine in the semi-final of the Intermediate Club Championship. His clubmate Éanna O’Connor (son of the Kerry bainisteoir) will also play a crucial role at centre forward.
Rahillys are facing a relegation playoff if they fail to reach the final of the Kerry SFC and their form in recent weeks would suggest that making it that far is a long shot.
VERDICT: Mid Kerry and Spa
GROUP 4: Dingle, Dr Crokes, St Brendan’s, Na Gaeil
Breaking free of East Kerry’s stranglehold will not be easy but crafty Senior Club champions Dingle are surely best placed to wriggle loose. With four in-form Geaneys in the forwards – Paul, Mikey, Conor and Dylan – they have the tools to trouble any defence, and the return of their established AFL player Mark O’Connor adds solidity going the other way. They also have the incomparable Tom O’Sullivan pulling the strings. As things stand, they are easily the standout club team in the county.
Their Group 4 opponents Dr Crokes will be aiming to improve upon their showing in 2022 when they bowed out at the quarter-final stage. Naturally much will depend on the availability or otherwise of star players Gavin White and Tony Brosnan. White missed the recent Senior Club semi-final defeat to Kenmare with a hamstring injury. Encouragingly, Brosnan (who has been sidelined with a recurrence of a lung problem) was togged for that match, though he did not play.
The Killarney club will be fancied to qualify from their group alongside Dingle, although St Brendan’s – strengthened by the addition of an unknown number of Austin Stacks players to their ranks – could be dangerous.
The other team in the pool, Na Gaeil, are facing a relegation playoff against Rahillys once both sides are finished with the Kerry SFC. Reaching the final of this competition would spare them but Na Gaeil can count themselves unlucky to have been handed a difficult draw for the second year in a row.
VERDICT: Dingle and Dr Crokes
All things considered East Kerry and Dingle appear to be the frontrunners to capture the Bishop Moynihan trophy but there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way, starting this weekend with a full round of fixtures.
All eight matches will be either televised or streamed online. Dingle v Dr Crokes is on TG4. The remaining seven matches are on Clubber.
Friday 8pm Na Gaeil v St Brendan’s (Austin Stack Park)
Saturday 3pm Templenoe v West Kerry (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Saturday 5.30pm Rahillys v Shannon Rangers (Austin Stack Park)
Saturday 7.30pm East Kerry v South Kerry (Austin Stack Park)
Sunday 1.30pm Rathmore v St Kieran’s (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Sunday 2.15pm Dingle v Dr Crokes (Austin Stack Park)
Sunday 3.30pm Feale Rangers v Kenmare Shamrocks (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Sunday 4.15pm Mid Kerry v Spa (Austin Stack Park)
Kerry’s old dogs ready for Tyrone challenge in All-Ireland final
Adam Moynihan chats to Kerry Masters goalkeeper Tony Lyons ahead of the over 40 All-Ireland football final
Hi Tony. Thanks for speaking to me.
No problem, Adam.
Can you tell me about the Kerry Masters’ season to date?
We played six round robin games in the league phase to see which competition we would be in at the end. There are five championships in all with the senior championship being for teams that finish 1st to 4th in the league, the plate for 5th to 8th and so on. There were 23 counties involved in total this year with new entrants like Armagh, Derry and Limerick.
We won five of our six league games against Limerick, Cork, Waterford, London and Clare. Unfortunately we were well beaten by Dublin during the league phase but that served us well because we knuckled down after that and upped the training to twice a week.
We also got a physical trainer on board from Keel, David Clifford, and he has had a huge influence on our development the last couple of months, allied to Adam and Gary O’Reilly from Glenflesk, and Jason Foley from Keel.
We then beat Derry in the All-Ireland quarter-final by a point, setting up a semi-final against Galway in Limerick which we won by 12 points to 7 a couple of weeks back. it That quarter-final win against Derry was our most pleasing result of the season because we were down a few bodies.
What’s the standard like?
The standard is actually very good. While we don’t have a lot of former Kerry players with us – aside from William Kirby and Aidan O’Mahony – we do have a very good calibre of club player with us, the likes of John O’Connor from Kerins O’Rahillys and John Paul Leahy from Ballyduff for example. We’ve come across some big names in some of the games. Limerick had Ciarán Carey, Dublin had Denis Bastick, Cork had Nicholas Murphy and John Miskella, and Derry had Paddy Bradley.
The first halves of the games are really competitive with the second halves probably becoming more of a war of attrition. The key is having depth in your squad and being able to bring players in and out at the right time as players tire, and I think Adam and his management team have mastered that at this stage.
Would a number of the players have represented Kerry at some level in the past?
We haven’t a huge amount of former Kerry seniors but some of the guys would have represented Kerry at junior and underage level at various stages. What the management team focused on when it became apparent some of the former players weren’t joining was getting good quality club players who could commit and make most of the trainings, and I think that has worked well for them.
What’s key as well is that a lot of the players have been playing very recently for their clubs either at senior or junior level. That’s a huge help.
How are the fitness levels?
Depends on what time of the season you’re talking about! The first few weeks is all about trying to knock off the pounds and get to a certain level of fitness. In fairness to Adam O’Reilly, he places a big focus on the warm-up which is important for players of all ages but especially for those of us over 40.
Very few of the starting 15 would last the 60 or 65 minutes so it’s important that the replacements coming in can add an impetus and build on what the guys before them have done. Last year our panel was probably a little light but we have added well with the likes of Kevin Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds), Mark Crowley (Kenmare) and James Nagle (Keel) – all strong and very fit guys – coming in.
Tell me more about your management team.
Adam O’Reilly is the manager. He came on board this year and brought Gary O’Reilly and Jason Foley with him. Gary looks after the statistics, gear and so on and Jason is a selector as well as taking parts of training at various times. David Clifford came on board about two months ago as physical trainer and he has added greatly to the set-up, improving our fitness levels and tackling in particular.
What’s the most enjoyable part of playing with the Kerry Masters?
A huge part of it, Adam, is playing with guys who you would have tried to knock lumps out of at club level over the years! There’s a big social part to it also with us meeting for a pint or two after games and, as well as that, guys getting back into a dressing room environment and having the craic at training.
For some guys who were never lucky enough to wear the Kerry jersey, there’s a huge sense of pride to put it on at this stage. It’s a real an honour. To be fair to the other teams we played, they have treated us with a lot of respect because they know Kerry teams will play football first and foremost.
Also it’s nice to involve our families, kids, partners, and wives and for them to come to the games. We have noticed a lot more people coming to our matches this season.
Which of your teammates are the best craic?
There are a few fellas like Tim O’Donoghue who thinks he’s hilarious but the jury’s out on that one. I suppose the goalies, myself and Niall Hobbert, would be jokers but then the rest of the panel would tell you the jury is out on us too! Kirby is good craic, as is the former Spa man Brian O’Sullivan Darcy. It’s great fun. I would thoroughly recommend it to any guy 40 or over who wants to play a bit of competitive football and also continue training in what is almost like a club environment.
How would you rate your chances in the final on Saturday? Are you expecting a difficult challenge from Tyrone?
Look, it’s going to be very tough. Tyrone have won the last two All-Ireland finals at Masters level and they have the experience, whereas this is our first go, as it were. They have a solid team built with the likes of Seán Cavanagh, Conor Gormley and Stephen O’Neill in their ranks.
It will be a tall order for sure but we’ll give it our all and the whole panel are chomping at the bit and ready for action.
Kerry v Tyrone takes place on Saturday at 4pm in Roscommon. Follow @KerryMastersGAA on Twitter for more information.
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