What began as a promising Senior Hurling match up between Westmeath and Kilkenny eventually fizzled into a Westmeath route, before further dissolving into chaos.
With less than 4 minutes remaining in Sunday’s hurling feature, Kilkenny substitute Mark Kennedy and Westmeath’s New York county man Paddy Barry got into a brawl that escalated to include many of members of each team as referee Dave Simms attempted to quell the disturbance. Referee Simms suddenly stopped, threw his hands up, and stormed off the pitch.
The reason for Simms’s departure was apparently verbal abuse from the Westmeath sideline. Who said what is an issue that will have to be hashed out at Thursday night’s regular NYGAA meeting at Gaelic Park, after the referee’s report is issued.
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The decision will be handed down by the president, although an appeal is almost a certainty, by whichever side feels aggrieved. Possible outcomes include a replay, which Westmeath, leading by 0-12 with so little time remaining, would be vehemently opposed, or the points could be awarded to Westmeath, who seemed to have the victory well secured. The Cats may not be too keen on a ruling of that nature.
Confusion reigned once Simms made his long walk. The two sets of players were clearly confused and the sight of the referee leaving the playing field stopped the fight, but ignited the argument. The officer of the day, Peter McKiernan, was thrown into the fray and both teams sought out various New York GAA officials to plead their cases. President Monty Maloney was not at the park, reportedly on holidays. Eventually Simms reemerged and said he would finish the match if both sides agreed.
Kilkenny had left the field and were apparently togged in at this stage. At one point it seemed as thought the Cats were going to come back out, as the Stamford footballers, who had borrowed Kilkenny’s jerseys (that’s another story), stripped off the black and amber on the pitch while preparing for the next match, presumably for the hurlers use.
Then, after McKiernan and Simms huddled, it was all off — again. This, of course, will make for a lively meeting on Thursday evening with many side issues likely to be raised. The old story of too many officials, and non-officials on the sideline was mentioned on Sunday, but we’ve been hearing about that forever.
Without reference to Sunday’s incident, abuse of referees is far too common in the New York GAA. We’ve all been guilty on that score. Another disturbing aspect of all of this is the amount of fighting that has gone on in recent weeks. Players squaring off and firing punches used to be cause for an automatic sending off, but not recently. Gaelic games are, and are meant to be physical sports. That is part what makes them great games. But there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed without consequences and fistfights were traditionally that line.
The match itself was dominated by Westmeath’s Jonathan O’Callaghan, with an impressive tally of 1-12, and center back Darren McCormack. McCormack, a Westmeath home county import, notched 2-3 in a great display. Kilkenny got top performances from weekender Rory Moore, a native Cat, and Damien Mason. Now we wait for Thursday’s verdict.
Westmeath: Darren Fitzpatrick, Peter Dalton, Brian McCabe, Collie Reilly, Darren McCormack (2-3), Robbie Nolan, Paddy Barry (0-1), Adrien Mitchell, Damien Dermody, Martin Finn (0-4), John O’Sullivan, Jonathan O’Callaghan (1-12), Lorcan Coll. Subs: Ronan Fagan, John Murtach.
Kilkenny: Kevin Corbett, Liam Byrne, Noel McGovern, Kevin McKay, Jonathan Doyle, Richie Hogan (0-1), Rory Moore (0-5), Vinnie Norton, Joe Norton, Joe Norton, Gary Quinlan, Brendan Ryan, Damien Mason (0-8), Anthony Power (0-2) Subs: Darren Dogherty, Jermone Edge, Mark Kennedy, Peter Breen (0-1).