Dublin manager Pat Gilroy has claimed the controversial free that cost Kildare their Leinster Championship place at Croke Park on Sunday was justified.
Meath referee Cormac Reilly caused consternation in the Kildare ranks when he penalized Andriú Mac Lochlainn for a last minute “foul” on Bernard Brogan.
The sides were level and the game headed for a replay when Reilly spotted the infringement by Mac Lochlainn in the distance.
Brogan subsequently pointed the free to secure victory by the narrowest of margins for the Dubs after a dramatic second half comeback by the Lilywhites after Eoghan O’Gara had been sent off for the winners.
Gilroy went so far as to claim the decision free-kick was karma as far as Kildare were concerned.
“I think Bernard was probably due a free at that stage. He had probably had a few calls that seemed to go against him,” stated Gilroy at his post-match press conference.
“So in fairness, I’d say there were seven or eight that he could have had before that so I think getting the one but your man was pulling him.
“I mean, we either want to have good forwards pulled and have that as part of the game or it was a free because he was pulling him, there’s no question.
“But he was pulling him eight other times and he didn’t get frees. That’s something that’s part of championship football, we either have it as part of the game, or we don’t.
“But we don’t have guys doing it. I think it was a free.”
The Dublin manager did concede that Kildare had a right to be annoyed by Reilly’s decision so late in the game after previous fouls had gone unpunished.
“Of course you would, because it does seem that when you get into championship fellas in the full-forward line are allowed to be given a little tug once he releases before the referee looks,” added Gilroy.
“I don’t think the referee could see them but it just happened with this one, it was a longer ball in, and he did see it.”
O’Gara was red carded for a second yellow card offense in the 40th minute, but his manager stood by the young forward.
“We had felt he has been a guy that has been very disciplined in what he’s been doing with us,” said Gilroy.
“Look, he got sent off and that’s it, we have to deal with it. It’s very disappointing for us as well.”
Eamonn Callaghan did score a late goal for Kildare to push the game to the verge of a replay.
Kildare’s villain of the peace Mac Lochlainn was adamant he had done no wrong in that late tussle with Brogan.
“You could see on TV a lot better than I could see there,” claimed the defender. “It wasn’t a free. I was sure in my mind that it wasn’t a free.
“The game even shouldn’t come down to a decision like that. It’s unnecessary and it’s a cruel way to end a game of football.”
Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney was annoyed by the decision but reluctant to slam referee Reilly.
“I can’t go on about referees much longer. I just can’t,” said McGeeney. “Aindriu Mac Lochlainn didn’t do anything wrong. Even after probably seven replays, he still didn’t do anything wrong.
“He came out with his hands up in the air. I thought up front our two boys were getting bumped and pushed about the place but they’re good strong lads and they stayed on their feet.”
Meath exorcised the ghosts of last year’s controversial Leinster final win over Louth when Cian Ward scored four goals in a demolition derby victory over the Wee County in Saturday night’s All-Ireland SFC qualifier in Breffni Park.
Ward scored all but one of the Meath goals as they recorded a 5-8 to 2-8 win that left Louth with no complaints.
“The players wanted to put this baby to sleep, it’s been hanging over them a long time since the Leinster final last year and tonight puts an end to that,” said Meath boss Seamus McEnaney.
“I am absolutely delighted with the team’s performance. It’s a huge win for us -- for the players, the management, the Meath County Board, and the Meath supporters - but it’s one game at a time now in the qualifiers.”
Four goal hero Ward said: “This victory is just another step in where Meath want to be. My job is to finish the goal chances and they were put on a plate for me tonight by my team-mates.
“I thought that our full-back line were absolutely outstanding and it was a really good team performance. We’re just delighted to get to the next round.”
Darren Clarke accounted for 1-8 of Louth’s 2-8 total, but they never looked like avenging last year’s bitter defeat to their neighbors.
The result will put pressure on manager Peter Fitzpatrick, but he was adamant afterwards that he wants to see out his three year term as boss after successive defeats to Carlow and Meath.
“I got a three-year term. I am as enthusiastic as ever. If the county board are happy with me I have no problem going forward,” said Fitzpatrick.
“I could do a runner, let them go ahead in Division Two and let them be relegated but I am not a coward.”
Donegal produced a stirring second half performance to beat a fancied Tyrone side by three points in Sunday’s Ulster SFC semifinal in Clones.
Tyrone were five points ahead after a bright opening to the game and led by two at the break, but Donegal really came into the match in that second period.
“Tyrone in the first half early in the game were putting on a master class and I’ve seen them do that on a number of occasions,” said Donegal boss Jim McGuinness afterwards.
“We wanted to get the Donegal players into the dressing room, sit them down and relax them and explain that all the things we were working on all year weren’t happening and needed to start happening.”
Tyrone had Kevin Hughes sent off in the second half and were guilty of some woeful finishing in the first.
Manager Mickey Harte admitted, “We lost the game in the first half. Never mind the goal chances. The scoring statistics say we had 18 scoring chances and got six. Donegal had five scoring chances and got four.
“You don’t need any other statistics than that. That is the story of the game in a nutshell. They were much more economical with the chances that they created.
“The sending off didn’t help us but we would have done well to have got a draw. They got their second goal which was maybe inevitable when you are throwing caution to the wind trying to get that winning score.”
Mayo brushed aside a poor Galway team in Sunday’s Connacht SFC semifinal in Castlebar, but manager James Horan expects Roscommon to be favorites for the provincial decider on July 17 in Hyde Park.
Horan’s team were full value for their 1-12 to 1-6 win over Galway, but their boss was downplaying their dominance afterwards.
“Roscommon are one of the form teams, they have been doing very well over the last few years and they will be favorites,” insisted Horan.
“We played well in the second half today. We got a return on possession and got quite a few scores. We had dominated possession in the first half but we kicked numerous wides and that put us under pressure and Galway got a late goal.”
Mayo survived a late revival from the home team away to London last time out and that stood to them on Sunday.
“We had a scare in London -- you saw London yesterday and they are no flash in the pan --- but we used the lessons we got over there and I think it did sharpen us up and help us today,” added Horan.
Galway manager Tomás Ó Flatharta must revitalize his shell-shocked side for the All-Ireland qualifier clash with Meath on Saturday, July 9 after the dismal defeat to Mayo.
“Obviously when you lose a game it is very disappointing,” said Ó Flatharta. “In the first half we were four points ahead at halftime.”
London scored their first championship win since 1977 when they saw off Fermanagh in the All-Ireland qualifiers at Ruislip on Saturday, and manager Paul Coggins described the win as “amazing.”
Coggins’ side now host Waterford in the second round of the qualifiers, with the manager intent on another big performance from his team.
“We believed in ourselves against Fermanagh and we knew we had a big chance if we performed like we did against Mayo when we were beaten in extra time in the Connacht Championship,” said Coggins.
“We have inundated with messages of congratulations from all over Ireland and I would like to thank all the well wishers.
“There are feelings of great elation and happiness. We worked very hard to achieve something and we achieved it. We’ve a great bunch of players and they put everything in there, absolutely everything.”
Fermanagh manager John O’Neill had no excuses. “It was a bad day at the office for us. London were the better team all over the pitch and we hadn’t enough guys to step up to the mark. London took their chances and we were probably naïve,” O’Neill said.
“London’s hunger was phenomenal. We didn’t match it. Good luck to them; they’ll give whoever they meet in the next round plenty of trouble.”