By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — As if six sendings-off and 14 yellow cards wasn’t enough, we are now to have a second installment of the Westmeath-Carlow Leinster football championship saga following the Leinster Council’s unusual decision to replay the match.
Westmeath won the first game, but once referee Niall Barrett’s performance came under the microscope, the Leinster Council agreed to review the game, in which the Cork official sent off four Carlow players and two from Westmeath.
After a marathon meeting last Friday, the Council decided that the best course of action was to replay the game. Apparently, the meeting heard a conflicting version of events involving Barrett and Paddy Cronin, the Munster referees coordinator.
Barrett’s understanding of a conversation with Cronin was that a player who committed a personal foul would be shown the yellow card immediately and sent off for a second offense. The usual procedure is for the referee to take stock of a first offense, book a player for a second personal foul and then send him off for a third.
A dispute has arisen between Cronin and Barrett as to what exactly was said during the conversation.
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"I have been betrayed and feel deeply hurt," Barrett said. "My personal integrity has been called into question and that is something I won’t allow. I refereed the game in accordance with the instructions I was given. It’s as simple as that."
In a further twist, the high-powered Games Administration Committee of the GAA had earlier declared the game legal when it confirmed that three of the players sent off had been suspended. Then, a matter of hours later, the Leinster Council ruled that the game was null and void.
Even then, the chairman of the Council, former referee Seamus Aldridge, said that the delegates were creating a very dangerous precedent, but Carlow were still granted a replay. Westmeath, not surprisingly, are to appeal against the decision.