Waterford county board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan has admitted that the Déise are “lucky” to have Austin Gleeson available for next month’s All-Ireland senior hurling final against Galway.
And he has warned that county board officials are not in a position to “work miracles” as they consider appealing a one-match suspension for midfielder Conor Gleeson.
Waterford top brass have been informed of the proposed ban for Conor Gleeson, after he was sent off in last Sunday’s semi-final victory over Cork.
Gleeson has been reported by referee James Owens for ‘striking or attempting to strike with the hurley (minimal force)’, an offence that carries a one-match ban.
That rules the Fourmilewater clubman out of the Galway clash on September 3 – but 2016 Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson is available after Owens informed the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee of his view that there was no need for retrospective action following the helmet incident with Cork’s Luke Meade.
It has been reported that CCCC members are unhappy that they have been unable to investigate the matter further and Ryan, speaking on WLR on Wednesday, admitted: “We’re fortunate to have Aussie for the final, being honest about it.
“We’re lucky, it’s great and it’s what we want.
“I’m just saying Galway are lucky and Waterford are lucky.
“This rule about pulling off helmets was brought in by the medical and scientific committee of the GAA, at the behest of (Cork team doctor) Con Murphy and the players.
“It was the players who wanted this rule brought in, that touching helmets was sacrosanct and you couldn’t do it. The players have to be very, very careful.”
Ryan added that he was disappointed with the highlighting of the Gleeson incident by RTÉ TV pundits during the live broadcast of the game, and again on The Sunday Game highlights show.
He said: “I was very disappointed with the attitude taken by (former) players on RTÉ.
“We’ve lived this as county board officers for the last 72 hours, because we want Aussie Gleeson for the All-Ireland final.
“The county needs him, the game needs him and the country needs him.
“Being at the game on Sunday, to the ordinary punter, nothing happened but when you start playing things in slow motion, blah, blah, blah, it’s so easy to dig up stuff. That makes it look a bit unreal – and it is unreal.
“There was no serious malice or intent with either Aussie or the Galway player (Adrian Tuohy against Tipperary).
“It’s great that common sense has prevailed.”
Ryan, however, didn’t appear confident that Waterford will get Conor Gleeson cleared for the final, after he aimed a swipe at Patrick Horgan last Sunday.
He said: “If the referee reports it, the rule is very specific.
“If I strike you with the hurley, or attempt to strike you, (and) I might even miss you after swinging the hurley at you, it’s very hard to overturn it.
“The rule applies to games here in Waterford, Munster games and national games.
“I’m trying to put a bit of balance into the thing. That’s what we’re faced with.
“The report will be looked at. I come from the same club as Conor Gleeson. I want to see Conor Gleeson and (clubmate) Jamie Barron centre-field in an All-Ireland final but we cannot work miracles.
“We have to deal with what we can deal with and then we have to leave it in the hands of the powers that be.
“If we can bring up evidence to Croke Park that Conor Gleeson didn’t strike with the hurley, he will get off. If we can’t, it’s going to be a tough ask, that’s being honest with you.”
Ryan also issued a public appeal to supporters and local businesses to support fundraising efforts ahead of the All-Ireland decider – indicating that spending on inter-county teams this year could top the €1m mark.
He said: “We haven’t got the figures yet but we’re looking at the cost of training our county teams this year between €900,000 and €1m.
“To be in an All-Ireland final is the best thing that’s ever happened to us but it comes at a cost – and the bills have to be paid.”
By Jackie Cahill