GAA officials to meet amid fears of Rasharkin boycott

Referees to discuss options after Rasharkin appeal

By David Mohan

REFEREES in Antrim will discuss what action – if any – to take following the re-instatement of Rasharkin’s adult teams into Antrim competitions in 2012, according to Antrim Referees Committee chairman Tommy McIntyre.

The Antrim County Board are also considering whether to appeal the decision made by the Ulster Council’s Hearings Committee on Monday that has led to Ray Matthews’ announcement that he will no longer officiate at games.

The former Antrim and Rossa hurling goalkeeper was assaulted after an Under 21 football semi-final between Lámh Dhearg and St Mary’s Rasharkin back in October and while the Antrim CCC imposed a blanket ban on all St Mary’s teams at senior and Under 21 level for 2012, the Ulster council’s Hearings Committee overturned this decision.

Matthews revealed on Tuesday that he was disgusted by the decision and as a result would retire.

This has prompted a meeting of Antrim referees that will be held after Christmas and McIntyre admitted that he could not rule out the possibility of referees boycotting Rasharkin games although he said it was too early to be certain.

“The referees committee will be meeting either next week or the following to discuss the matter and we will see what decision is made,” he said.

“It’s very disappointing for Ray. I think they [Ulster Hearings Committee] made the decision very quick.

“Referees are very disappointed with the whole thing.”

Asked whether referees might refuse to officiate at matches involcing Rasharkin, McIntyre said it was simply too soon to tell.

“It’s too early to say. I’m sure there will be individuals who won’t want to but it’s too early to say.”

Former Antrim sectary Eamonn McMahon, who is now secretary of the Ulster Council’s Hearing’s Committee, refused to comment on the decision when contacted but many will feel the outcome has dealt a blow to the issue of respect for match officials.

Rasharkin’s appeal was based on the blanket ban handed out to adult teams only while the bans on individual members – ranging from four weeks to lifetime expulsion – were not challenged and will stand, while Rasharkin’s ground will remain closed for senior games and their Under 21 team will remain banned from next season’s competition.

The Antrim County Board have three days to decide whether to appeal while Rasharkin can also appeal to Croke Park if they are not happy with the decision made by the Ulster Council Hearings Committee.

During his address to the Antrim County Convention last Monday, county chairman Jim Murray said the Antrim board were determined to stamp out such incidents and said they would stick to their guns on the sanctions imposed.

He assured those in attendance that Antrim would not tolerate violence at games and those that broke the rules would be punished accordingly.

“We need to get real. To an extent I can understand player frustration, yellow cards, the disappointment of defeat, but what I cannot understand or will ever accept is the unprovoked and intentional violence towards other players and especially to our match officials,” said the chairman during his speech.

“This will not be tolerated or accepted in any shape or form any longer in Antrim.

“I have asked the CCC and CHC to look at serious deterrents for any and all forms of abuse, either physical or verbal on our match officials and players.

“Recent events through the year have only hardened my resolve to eradicate this type of behaviour.

“I have supported CCC and County Committee decisions in suspensions and sanctions all year and have regularly encouraged our CCC to ‘hold their nerve’ and to keep imposing sanction and suspension that will deter and remove those who are serial offenders and those who will not listen.”

Murray went on to appeal for clubs to not try and escape punishments and said the county would lead the way on the issue of violence against officials.

However, many who support this stance will be dismayed at the decision taken on Monday.

“There will be no hiding place for this type of behaviour in Antrim. We will continue to lead not follow and we will be brave and decisive in eradicating this blight on our sport,” added Murray during his address.

“I would ask officials at our clubs to cease this nonsense of supporting and defending the indefensible.

“Stop looking for a way out for those people who are continually abusing referees, players who are continually being sent-off and to deal with the issues however difficult and whoever it may be.”

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