Devastated Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny believes Sunday’s FAI Cup semi-final will be remembered as a bad day for refereeing in Ireland as his side crashed out of the competition following a controversial display from from match official Anthony Buttimer.
The Cork referee sent off Darren Meenan before, five minutes later, awarding a penalty and dismissing Chris Shields despite the midfielder putting in an inch-perfect tackle on Declan O’Brien inside the box.
The Lilywhites manager was incandescent with rage afterwards and stated that he feared the worst when he saw Buttimer had been awarded the semi-final.
“It is a bad day for the League of Ireland, for refereeing in Ireland and a bad one for John Ward, the head of referees, because he presides over that and I don’t know if he thinks it is acceptable to send two players off like that,” fumed Kenny.
“For our recent game against Derry we had Alan Kelly and he was excellent, top class, so why isn’t he or someone of his ilk refereeing it? We knew there would be controversy and we were on the end of it.”
The Dundalk boss branded what happened in Hunky Dorys Park as a “farce” and believes the possibilities for the club would have been fantastic had they reached the showpiece occasion.
“People should realise how hard everyone at this club works. We have done that every single day that we have been here since the start of pre-season,” he said.
“The players dedicate their lives to playing here for not a lot of reward and I think that the level of professionalism is very, very high and then you come to the big day and it is just a farce, it really is. We are all just devastated.
“With how this club has gone this year, I was so excited about the possibility of how many we could bring to the Aviva. I was thinking that from everywhere from Castlebellingham to Carlingford fans would travel and it would have been a huge day for the club,” said Kenny reflecting on what might have been.
“It could have been a whole new era in terms of support and I felt it would push the club on to a new level altogether but we had two off in the space of five minutes when he couldn’t get the cards out quickly enough so what chance have you got then?”
Of the individual decisions made on the day by Buttimer, the former Derry City manager hit out.
“It was a wet surface and Darren has slid in but there was very little contact and I felt it was a yellow card at best, if even a foul. There was no malice in it.
“With the second one Chris Shields clearly wins the ball. Replays confirmed that and even if he hadn’t won it, there were three defenders between Declan O’Brien and the goal!
“The FAI need to take a look at that because with the standard of players we have, why are we tolerating that? This is our livelihood, this is our career, it defines your career, your family, who you live with and where you play your football.
“The players were heroic and they tried everything to stay in the game and Tiarnan Mulvenna nearly pulled it off with a great effort but in the end it wasn’t enough. “
“We were cheated out of it three times today really with the penalty and double sending off and then you have absolutely no chance.”