The consensus seems to be that the referee did not have one of his better games. Clare fans believe Shane O’Neill should have been sent off and that the referee gave some easy frees to Cork. Cork fans believe that the Clare defence were too close to the ball on two Cork 20m frees. They also believe that the referee gave Clare a chance to draw the game. Crucially, neither set of supporters believe the referee was biased against their team.
One criticism of Brian Gavin is that he gave Clare a chance to equalise. This ignores the fact that referees tend to act like parents. They tend to balance things out amongst their children by being flexible with the rules. They give everyone a fighting chance – especially those behind. Using research on baseball, Tobias Moskowitz (Professor of Finance, University of Chicago) and Jon Wertheim (writer, Sports Illustrated), confirm that the behaviour of Brian Gavin conformed to officiating behaviour in other sports. Moskowitz & Wertheim use millions of pitches in baseball to test their hypothesis. These are pitches recorded on camera by MLB. Table 1 presents their data.
It is clear that parents and neutral fans are not the only ones that favour the underdog.