by Gerry Hand

The referee of the controversial 1988 All Ireland senior football replay between Meath and Cork has told Meath Live that Gerry McEntee was not the only Meath player that should have been sent off and he has described the match as a ‘fucking war.’

Tommy Sugrue, who lives in Tralee, was speaking after the publication of Adrian Russell’s superb new book, ‘The Double, how Cork made GAA history’, which looks in depth at the late eighties, rivalry between Sean Boylan and Billy Morgans sides.

The fractious replay came about after Sugrue awarded Meath a late free for a foul on David Beggy in the original fixture, something that thirty two years on he is adamant was correct.

In the book, he says, ‘ I could watch it 30,000 times on the television and I’d give the same free again and again and again. If I gave it in the seventh or tenth minute there wouldn’t be a word about it, because it was a free. You don’t give any free in the last minute that’s in any way dodgy, and I didn’t see anything dodgy in it, but the Cork fellas obviously did.

‘It’s often been thrown at me that I wanted to make a draw of it well let me tell you I’d have been better off without that, I’d have been better off without the number of abusive calls and letters I got, I’d have been better off without getting calls at two or three o clock in the morning having a go at me.’

That decision led to an increase in temperature for the replay, and as was the norm at the time the same ref was appointed for that clash.

Sugrue told Meath Live, ‘It wasn’t the toughest game I ever refereed but it was right up there towards the top of that list.

‘I’ll be honest it was a fucking war that’s what it was a fucking war.’

On McEntee’s dismissal, Sugrue reveals that he had a couple of reasons for taking advice from his linesman Sligo’s Mickey Kearins.

‘First of all, I didn’t and still don’t like the idea of appointing referees as linesmen in the final who were in the running to referee it themselves, there would be an element of disappointment in them that might lead to them trying to referee the match for you.

‘I felt there was a bit of that with Mickey so although I saw what Gerry McEntee did and was going to send him off any way I decided to get Mickey to confirm things so as to make him see we were operating as a team.’

The other reason displays the cute Kerryman in Sugrue, ‘Who do you think got the blame!’

Sugrue is honest enough to admit in the book ‘It wasn’t my finest hour’, and he now concedes more players could have headed to the dressing room early.

‘When I watched the match back the next day there was an incident involving Colm O’Rourke that I missed on the day I was disappointed with missing it as he should have been sent off, and there should have been a couple of Cork players went as well.

‘It was one of those days where nothing I did worked out right, it was a horrible horrible game to referee, and by God, it was a huge learning curve for me.

‘My overall impression of the two games is there should have been no need for a replay Cork missed so many chances in the first match to win it they should have wrapped it up that day.’

So if it wasn’t the toughest game Sugrue handled what, we wondered, was?

‘No question about it Tir Chonnail Gaels from London, a team based around Donegal emigrants against Lavey from Derry in the club semi final at Ruislip in 1992.

‘I had done the All Ireland that year, and that time around it went grand, so by way of thanks the GAA sent myself and the wife away to London for a few days at the end of which I was to do the game.

‘I should have known what was coming, I had my suspicions as Croke Park kept ringing me every day to ask was everything all right but I got no phone call on Sunday!

‘Remember it was just the wife and myself I wasn’t allowed to bring umpires or linesmen with me so had to make do with what was provided.

‘It was one those matches where both team’s attitude was, forget about the ball and let’s get on with the game, it put the Meath cork clashes in the shade and that’s saying something.’