The loss of midfielder John Coughlan to an early second half red card cost Offaly dearly in their 1-20 to 2-7 Leinster SFC defeat to Meath on Sunday, and even Royals boss Eamon O’Brien admitted as much afterwards.

Coughlan saw red after he appeared to strike Meath defender Anthony Moyles, and his loss played a big part in his team’s 10-point defeat.

“The sending off probably changed the course of the game in the sense that it enabled us to defend more easily and to build a platform for victory from there on,” said O’Brien.

“Overall, I thought we played well. I thought Cian Ward kicked some superb frees that probably sometimes mightn’t go over for you but he was on song today and kicked some brilliant free kicks.”

Like many managers a week early, O’Brien took issue with referee Derek Fahy and his interpretation of the new hand-pass rule.

“From a distance, it’s very hard to judge but I thought a couple of the ones that we had given against us looked like fist-passes rather than hand-passes,” added O’Brien.

Offaly manager Tom Cribbin was critical of Fahy and his red card decision.

“I think he destroyed a very good quality game, and we’ve a very young team there and there’s a lot of good young forwards as well as experienced guys -- that’s going to be very, very difficult for them to take, to keep getting knocks like that. You need a bit of a break,” said Cribbin.

“It’s just very disappointing. You feel gutted for a team when it turns on an incident like the sending off. And just before halftime, it looked like the referee signaled for a penalty.”

Antrim Wins

Antrim pushed All-Ireland contenders Tyrone to the very end of their Ulster SFC clash in Casement Park on Sunday before Mickey Harte’s team secured a 2-14 to 1-13 win.

First half goals from Kevin Hughes and Owen Mulligan put Tyrone in the driving seat, but Antrim staged a late rally and might have got more from the match.

Tyrone boss Harte admitted, “It was a tough second half for us. We were in a good position at halftime, and probably could have been further ahead if we had taken out chances.

“It was a decent lead but, considering the breeze that was out there and considering that Antrim had nothing to lose, it was still a tall order and we were hanging on at the end.”

Antrim boss Liam Bradley was angry afterwards and claimed that Mulligan’s goal should have been disallowed.

“Last week we were talking about referees for a different reason. I think we should be talking about the referee today for the main reason -- the second goal,” said Bradley.

“It was plain to everybody that that was a free to us and the game hinged on it at the tail end, there were only four points in it.

“The second goal was crucial. People have got to realize that was a free to Antrim. Colin Brady was fouled.

“There were around 20,000 people here and everyone except the referee saw that as a free -- and anybody who doesn’t think it’s a free doesn’t know the rules of the game. That whole game hinged on that one mistake.”

Waterford wins

CLARE boss Michael McDermott became the latest manager to criticize referees and their interpretation of the rules after his side went down to Waterford by a score of 1-10 to 0-9 in the Munster SFC on Sunday.

“I’ve no problem with the handpass or new rules like that, but I have to say the referee made some very bad calls on us today,” said McDermott.

“When a guy is fouled, and there’s no advantage accrued from it, you should get your free. That happened six or seven times in the second half.

“We were called for over-carrying too and that came from being fouled, and they had to try and break away from the foul. There’s no advantage in that.”

McDermott was upset by his team’s failure to turn chances into scores and added, “We weren’t ruthless enough today. It comes down to that in championship football and it was something we talked to the players about.

“We got chances to win the game and we didn’t take them. They fought hard, they showed all the characteristics we wanted in a team. But the ruthlessness was missing today.”

Waterford will now play Limerick in the semi-finals and manager John Owens admitted, “We didn’t play nearly as well as we are capable of.

“It certainly was a different performance to the league game. There was no comparison between that performance and our one against Limerick in the league either. But it doesn’t matter now. We’d have taken a half point win there today.”

Louth wins

LONGFORD hit 14 wides in their 1-11 to 1-7 Leinster SFC defeat to Louth on Sunday, and manager Glenn Ryan could have no complaints after his team’s defeat in Portlaoise.

“We have to take every opportunity that comes our way and unfortunately we didn’t,” said Ryan. “I feel we’re a better team than that but, unfortunately, at this stage we haven’t reached what I think we’re capable of and that’s very disappointing.

“I think Louth probably were there for the taking, but we just didn’t reach the level we needed to get to.”

Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick was happier and said, “I didn’t care if it was one point or 10 points, all we wanted to do was win the game and get a crack at Kildare. “I thought it was an all-round performance.”

GAA Shorts

MEATH GAA is in mourning after the tragic death of Skryne’s minor star Liam Tolan in a car crash on Saturday night, just hours after he played in the Leinster MFC defeat to Offaly . . .

KERRY All-Star Paul Galvin should be fit for the Munster SFC semifinal against Cork on Sunday, June 6 despite a re-occurrence of his recent ankle injury . . .

MIDFIELDER Joe Fitzpatrick finally made his return after injury as Laois defeated Carlow in the Leinster SHC on Saturday . . .

FORMER Kerry star Tadhg Kennelly has picked up a serious knee injury with his Sydney Swans Aussie Rules side . . .

STAR midfielder Brendan Boyle is out of Donegal’s big Ulster SFC clash with Down with a long-term groin injury . . .

PEARSE O’Neill made his return from injury as Cork’s footballers beat Kildare in a challenge game on Saturday . . .

JOE Kernan’s Galway beat his old side Armagh by 14 points in a challenge game at Clonmore on Sunday.