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24th Jan 2024

Who’d be a hurling referee after what Sean Stack had to listen to on Sunday?

Niall McIntyre

Who’d be a hurling referee?

Certainly not someone who’s looking for a quiet, laid-back life.

Sunday’s All-Ireland club hurling final was about as far away from quiet and laid-back as you could possibly imagine.

Eanna Burke scored the winning point but, in the aftermath, some people have mentioned that he was lucky to have been on the pitch to score it.

In his role as a commentator on TG4, former Galway hurler Cathal Moore made the point that, had Burke’s team-mate James Regan not been sent off ten minutes earlier, then the previously yellow-carded Burke could have seen a second one in the 41st minute, for his slap on Jordan Molloy.

But Molloy was lucky enough to have been on the pitch himself at that stage, given that his 14th minute head-butt on David Burke, by the letter of the law, warrants a red.

Burke himself had been yellow carded after five minutes for striking Eoin O’Shea with his hurl… This having come immediately after Conor Heary blindsided Conor Cooney with a shoulder into the chest.

There’s a pattern emerging here and it suggests that over the course of Sunday’s final, these things balanced themselves out.

But in a game was that so physically and emotionally charged, more flash-points can be reeled off at will.

Think of John Headd shoving Sean Bolger over the advertising hoardings, in what was a dangerous act before, half an hour later, Bolger more than got his back.

The corner forward left Headd writhing on the ground with a second half blow that earned the O’Loughlin Gaels man a yellow card.

There were many, many more high pitched moments in a game, a brilliant game that, by the end, had seen eight yellow cards and one red.

Sean Stack could easily have sent David Burke off for striking just as easily as he could have sent Jordan Molloy off for head-butting, or Eanna Burke for two yellows. Conor Heary could have seen the line too but what do spectators want?

The feeling is that yellows were fine, for the most part. Did people want to see 13 against 13?

If Stack did issue three or four reds, for example, then he’d almost certainly be accused of ‘making it all about himself,’ or ‘ruining the game.’

As it turns out, a quick search of his name on X would have you convinced that he already did.

And this is the problem. Hurling people want you to let the game flow until it flows the wrong way.

James Regan’s dismissal may have seemed on the harsh side but as Eddie Brennan correctly observed before half-time, ‘Sean Stack is probably going to lose patience with the next indiscretion.’ And so he did.

Stack’s umpires were poorly positioned for the ghost goal that not even a VAR could have awarded with full on conviction, but that mistake aside, the way the game went, no matter he did, Sean Stack was never going to win.

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