Why I won’t be giving out to referees in the future…

Our man Frank on the ‘abuse of referees’ issue; Welcoming Connacht rugby stars to Creggs… and how the great Moss Keane’s pre-match ‘routine’ involved visiting a pub or two!

Arriving home on Sunday evening after watching our local team (Creggs) play a Cawley Cup match against Dunmore, I realised that I never once shouted any type of abuse at the referee.

Now I am old enough to know that I should never abuse any referee at all, but truth to tell I have often shouted at referees in local, and even county, GAA games. And in a week where the abuse of referees became national news, maybe I, and people like me, are part of the problem.

As I drove home from Dunmore, I listened to a very interesting interview on RTE Radio with three prominent local men – former Roscommon footballing great Seamus Hayden, referee Haulie Beirne, and Roscommon Herald journalist Ian Cooney – and they discussed what could be done about the abuse that referees are being subjected to in every county in Ireland nearly every week of the year. Obviously they all agreed that the problem is widespread, and that Croke Park needs to crack down hard on abusers, but as I listened I began to think that I too am part of the problem.

One of the contributors said that nowadays referees are regularly subjected to being jostled and pushed by supporters. I can honestly say that I have never ever gone on a pitch to have any physical interaction with a referee. And yet, I have stood on sidelines and shouted at refs when they made decisions that I disagreed with.

As long as I have been involved with GAA games, abuse from the sidelines has been accepted as part of the games. Passion for the club is given as the reason for this type of behaviour, but maybe that’s where we should start in an effort to make referees’ lives easier. Can you imagine a game where the only shouts were shouts of encouragement, and the referee’s decisions were accepted without query?

In my experience, parents at underage games are the worst offenders of all, and as Seamus Hayden said, if children see such behaviour from their parents, it’s almost certain that they too will carry on the same behaviour when their turn comes.

The other fact that we now must face up to is that without referees, there would be no games. So we all have a vested interest in ensuring that all types of abuse are stamped out immediately.

As for me, I am going to keep my mouth shut at all games in future, and if I give out to anyone, it will be to our Creggs players if they are not playing to their potential. The referee will never again have to listen to me giving out. If we all did even that little thing, it’s likely we would have less hassle, and occasionally aggression, on the sidelines, and it would make the official’s life a good deal easier.

It was a pity that the local GAA matches fell by the wayside last weekend, but the action by the referees definitely brought the problem into the public domain. Hopefully things will now start to change.


Connacht Rugby stars descend on Creggs!

It’s Friday morning, and out here in our little village there is a palpable air of excitement because recent rumours, claiming that the Connacht rugby team are coming to Creggs to train, have proven to be true.

From about 9.30 am, the likes of Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen, Finlay Bealham, and of course our own Denis Buckley, were going through their paces on our beautiful 4G pitch. My son Mark and I arrived at the grounds at about 10 am, and already things were in full swing.

As I looked on, I began to realise just how big an operation Connacht Rugby is. There were at least fifty players togged out (with some notable absentees like Roscommon’s Jack Carty and Niall Murray), along with a number of coaching and administrative staff. On the assumption that nearly all of those are highly-paid professionals, the salary bill each year must be very substantial!

Some players were carrying injuries but were still togged out. Meanwhile, a couple of others who had come back a little late for training (such as Finlay Bealham, who had just returned from his honeymoon) were training on their own, but even though there were only two of them, they still had their own coach to look after their training programme.

The other big thing that was very noticeable was the sheer size and physical presence of all the players. Even the smaller ones had bulging muscles everywhere, and the big lads looked as if they came out of the WWE (that’s the wrestling).

Of course, big as they were, none of them were overweight; all of them looked like superbly trained athletes and there wasn’t a ‘pot belly’ to be seen anywhere. It all brought me back to the old days when all players were amateurs, and when even our top internationals were allowed a bit of leeway.

Our great Creggs rugby man, the late Jim O’Rourke, told me that one Saturday morning back in the day, he was in the Palace Bar on Fleet Street in Dublin on the morning of an international against England when the legend that was (and still is) the late Moss Keane arrived in. The bould Moss was packing down in the second row later that day in Lansdowne Road, and The Gunner (Jim’s nickname) was slightly bemused when, despite being on his own, he ordered four pints of Guinness, which he duly downed immediately!

When Moss left, The Gunner, who was fairly surprised to see him drink the four pints, commented on what he had witnessed. However, the barman said he probably had four somewhere else earlier, and that it was a regular occurrence on match days! It goes without saying that Moss put in a huge performance later that day in the game itself.

Another of the all-time greats from that era was Willie Duggan. He may have been the best ever Number 8 for Ireland. He would always smoke a fag or two at half-time in a match.

However, from what I saw in Creggs on Friday morning, I doubt if any of the Connacht lads model themselves on those two great Irish warriors.

Anyway, after a couple of hours’ hard work, all 70 or so in the group headed down to the hall in the school, where they were fed. I’m told they also took time out to talk to the school children, play football with them, get loads of pictures taken, and sign everything presented to them.

A few years ago, when Connacht first visited Creggs, I’m told they came down across the mountain, and wondered where in the name of God they were going to. By now they know it well, but even they must still be surprised by the magnificent facilities that the village club has to offer.

Anyway, it was great to have them visit us. Hopefully it won’t be the last time. A lot of young boys and girls will always remember the day Mack, Bundee and others came to Creggs National School!


And finally…

A reader contacted me with a story about their car insurance renewal premium from Aviva, a company that had declared profits of €43 million last year. Her premium was €440, but – like a lot of us – she is struggling with the huge rise in the cost of living, and decided it would be less painful if she spread the cost over the year, and paid by monthly direct debit.

I would’ve always thought that the spread payments option was there to help those who mightn’t have the annual premium in full, but it doesn’t seem so with Aviva. As is standard practice for such transactions, paying by direct debit means a 7% charge is imposed by the bank, but for some unknown reason her premium now rose to €623 – increasing the profit for the insurance company!

Where the extra cost came from isn’t clear, but it is yet another example of the greed of insurance companies, which – after all – are meant to be there to help, rather than hinder, their customers.