Five players sent off after ugly brawl in midlands GAA senior Gaelic football game

Win at high cost

gaa gaa offaly laois

Five players sent off after in Senior Football B quarter-final

WHAT should have been an occasion of great celebration and joy for Walsh Island was tinged with deep regret as they had two players sent off with straight red cards near the end of their Offaly Senior “B” Football Championship quarter-final win over St Rynagh's in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park on Sunday afternoon.

Walsh Island were coasting to a comfortable enough win with three minutes to go when the row broke out near the dressing room area of the field and with most players getting involved in some capacity, it was no surprise that referee Eamon O'Connor took stern action.

When the dust settled, he brandished straight red cards to Walsh Island's Colm Gavin and John Doyle and St Rynagh's Sean Dolan and Joey O'Connor. Walsh Island half forward Oisin Murphy was also sent off but he received a black card in addition to his earlier yellow, meaning that he will be okay for the semi-final.

St Rynagh's forward Gary Mahon had been red carded five minutes into the second half after tangling with Walsh Island full back Evin Galvin, and it all created for an unsatisfactory afternoon – even if the brawl and earlier sending off were isolated incidents rather than symptomatic of widespread malice or ill intent. It should have finished with Walsh Island's twelve against St Rynagh's twelve but the Cloghan club actually ended up with thirteen on the field as they had thrown in Martin Byrne as a blood sub for O'Connor as he went off to receive treatment for an injury.

Walsh Island will be disgusted at the way this game ended for them as they had done very well to win it and it was absolutely ludicrous for them to get involved in a row with the winning post in clear sight. A number of their players lost their discipline and while St Rynagh's were the same, the stakes were much higher for Walsh Island at this stage. They should have just turned and walked away instead of players running fifty metres or more to add to a scene of mayhem.

There was a very high card count and it does not paint a good picture: 6 red cards, five of them straight ones (John Doyle had been on a yellow for Walsh Island but got a straight red after the row), 8 yellow cards and two blacks.

Walsh Island were 1-8 to 0-6 when the row broke out and that is the way it finished. Gavin and Doyle will be huge losses for Walsh Island unless they can get their suspensions overturned and this is doubtful. Gavin had got through a mountain of work at midfield and while he may have took too much out of the ball at times, he had helped Walsh Island establish a foothold here after a poor start. Doyle hadn't been at his best in the Walsh Island attack but he was still doing okay and is one of their most important footballers.

Before that, it was a tough, uncompromising game of football but it had been played in generally good spirit. It was not a good game with plenty of mistakes and mediocre football but there were also patches of very good play and there was great honesty and commitment.

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