On Sunday last, Waterford turned in a tremendous performance to overturn Munster champions Cork and reach a first All-Ireland Final since 2008. Earlier this summer, Cork defeated favourites Waterford in the Munster semi-final with Cork simply too good for the Déise on the day.
The roles were reversed last Sunday with the Waterford underdogs blitzing Cork for four goals as their quest to win a first All-Ireland huring title since 1958 gained serious momentum. Next up is a Galway side who have been hugely impressive so far this summer and will head into the final as favourites.
Despite the victory, it wasnt the impending final that dominated discussions. Instead much of the post-match focus revolved around an incident late in the first half.
Reigning hurler of the year Austin Gleeson got tangled with Cork’s Luke Meade on the touchline and both men fell to the floor as the ball rolled out of play. As Gleeson got up however, he appeared to pull the helmet off Meade. Despite Gleeson’s eyes not looking towards Meade, there was a clear tug on the helmet from the Mount Sion man.
Gleeson knew he was in trouble and drifted out of the game until a late spree, including a wonder goal helped secure victory for Waterford. After the match, pundits and fans alike pondered whether Gleeson would be cleared to play in the final or would we be robbed of seeing arguably the finest hurler in the land strut his stuff on the biggest day of the year.
As things would pan out, it was announced yesterday evening that Gleeson had been cleared to play, which caused a major difference of opinions to say the least.
Austin Gleeson is free to play in the All-Ireland final @MartyM_RTÉ reports live from Croke Park pic.twitter.com/fdH5BuJT0E
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 15, 2017
In adddition to the Austin incident, his namesake Conor Gleeson received a straight red card in the 69th minute for a pull on Patrick Horgan. Gleeson is clearly seen to strike the Corkman and there was no doubt about the referes decision. Conor Gleeson had been immense on the day, man-marking Conor Lehane and leaving him with little time or space throughout the game.
Lehane who had been arguably the player of the Munster Championship, was hardly seen all day at Headquarters. Conor Gleeson would be the ideal man to man-mark one of Galway’s flyers up front.
These incidents have brought up the question, Should suspensions carry into finals. Some would argue that these players are grown men and should know better than to act recklessly with so much at stake. Yet, at the same time, things could have worked out differently and Waterford would have been without two of their key men.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) August 14, 2017
In Austin’s case, his pull of the helemt, although against the law, was harmless in its essence. Conor on the other hand was malicious in his action and here may lie the key in future decisions.
With three major incidents involving helmets in the last three high profile hurling games, it is time to address the ruling surrounding helmets. The law surrounding helmets is clear but its interpretation has been inconsistent and frustration for players and managers alike.
Just ask Tadgh De Búrca or Adrian Tuohy. For largely similar incidents, De Búrca was sent off and missed Waterford’s thrilling victory, whilst no action was taken against Tuohy in Galway’s triumph over Tipperary.