Sounding Off

Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2003, p 51


I suppose the year will be remembered for the way Cork GAA officials got away with it. It can be put no other way: Cork senior football management introduced six substitutes in the replayed Munster final and Munster Council let them away with it.

Five months earlier, in a drawn league game against Sligo, Kildare mistakenly introduced a substitute having used their permitted quota of twenty players, including a set of blood substitutes, just as Cork did against Tipperary on July 21.

When Kildare came to defend themselves before the General Activities Committee they claimed that a punishment for using more than the permitted twenty players only applied when a team exceeded the number of ordinary substitutions. GAC disagreed stating it applied to the total number of substitutions, and Kildare were forced to forfeit a league point.

When Cork came to defend themselves at the Munster CounciI meeting on the Wednesday following the replay they used the same defence as Kildare. They admitted they introduced six subs, John Miskella, Michael Cronin , Colin Crowley, Alan Quirke, Diarmuid O'Sullivan and Noel
O'Donovan, but that the first five were ordinary substitution s while the last, Noel O'Donovan, was a blood substitute. The Cork representatives claimed they hadn't broken the rule on substitutions because they hadn't exceeded the number of ordinary substitutions. And, they got away with it and didn't forfeit the game, as the Munster Council said that they found no penalty specified under rule for inadvertently breaching the blood substitute rule.

It was a case of different interpretations of the rule and one would have thought that that of the senior body's, the GAC, ought to have been the definitive one.

Admittedly there was the other matter of Tipperary's stance at the Munster Council hearing: the county was against being awarded the title, having been trounced by nineteen points, and didn't want Cork to forfeit the title which, according to the rule, they should have.

However that may be, the rule had been broken and some punishment should have been imposed. Even if Tipperary hadn't wanted to accept the winners medals or trophy, that didn't mean that Cork should have got them. The title could have been left vacant. Tipperary could have quaIified for the All-Ir eland quarter-finals while Cork could have played Mayo in the fourth round qualifier. Justice would have been done.

Since then the GAC have issued a directive that their interpretation is the correct one and that the Munster Council decision was wrong. Still, until the rule is tightened up it will remain open to the interpretation of Cork CAA officials. In that event, allowing blood substitutions outside the allotted five substitutions, the flood gates could be opened, allowing teams to introduce as many blood substitutions as they wished. It would be very easy to fake such substitutions in order to get fresh legs on the the field at critical moments. Instead of calling on players to
lie down , as was done in the days before the number of substitutions was limited, they wouId be ca led upon to scratch themselves and start bleeding!

Another example of the what the correct interpretation of the rule is was shown in the suspension of Na Fianna, the reigning Dublin football champions, in October.  In their quarter-final clash with Raheny on October 26, they used six substitutes, five regulars and a sixth player, Gerry Gray, as a blood replacement for Stephen McGlinchey.

The GAC of the Dublin County Board, after examining the referee's report, disqualified Na Fianna from this year's championship because the penalty for such an offence is automatic forfeiture of the game.

The whole incident confirms the public perception of the absolutely masterfuI cunning of Cork CAA officials , when it comes to the interpretation of the GAA rule book. One recalls the survival of Diarmuid O'Sullivan in June 2000 after having apparently struck Limerick's Brian Begley off the ball in the Munster hurling semi-final. The other case the same year was in the All-Ireland minor football semi-final against Derry. Kieran Murphy of Cork was yellow carded twice without receiving the mandatory red. Cork won by a point. In their defence, Cork claimed the referee had initially carded Murphy for his first offence, before reassessing it back to a tick. Their version of events prevailed at the subsequent hearing.

I suppose it could be said Cork have a lot of experience. The three only substitution rule was introduced in the mid- fifties but took some time to be effective. In the Munster semi-final against Cork at Limerick on June 22, 1958, Cork introduced five substitutes. They were: J. Twomey for E. Goulding , E. Goulding for P. Fitzgerald, W. Barry for J. Lyons, J. Lyons for W. Barry, W. Barry for J. Lyons. A bit of chopping and changing alright, but five substitutions

There was much speculation at the time as to what the position would have been if Tipperary had lost (As it was they won by two points). Would an objection have been upheld? Apparently it wouldn 't have been as no penalty had been laid down for the breaking of the new substitution rule.

At the time the Tipperary representatives were encouraged to raise the matter at the Munster CounciI. It was stated that if teams were allowed to do what Cork did in the Munster semi-fina l then the position as regards substitutes would be worse than previously, when players were able to come off for a breather and go back on again.

Things never really change!