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O'Kelly: Cherries star O'Kane should be rewarded for fair play
RICHARD O’Kelly believes Eunan O’Kane should be short-listed for the FIFA fair play award following his penalty gaffe during Cherries’ defeat at Walsall on Saturday.
Walsall’s assistant boss, who was Sean O’Driscoll’s number two at Dean Court between 2004 and 2006, praised O’Kane for his honesty and sportsmanship during the bizarre incident.
The midfielder conceded a late spot-kick when he inadvertently picked up the ball after thinking referee Andy Davies had blown for a foul by Steve Cook on Saddlers’ Will Grigg.
Although O’Kane declined to comment when asked by the Daily Echo, he later took to social network site Twitter to post the following explanation: “I can only apologise for what happened today! Thought I had heard a whistle so was trying to get the ball back to them to speed the game up!”
Cherries striker Steve Fletcher said he anticipated footage of the rare occurrence would end up featuring on the What Happened Next? round of the BBC’s A Question of Sport.
O’Kelly told the Daily Echo: “I thought the referee confused people with some of his decisions all through the game and he confused Eunan O’Kane the most. The referee and linesman both had a great position and it should have been a free-kick. Will Grigg was brought down by Cook.
“You could say Eunan should have reacted in a different way but, in my opinion, he could win the fair play award for what he did.
“I thought the referee had a get-out and could have given the free-kick after looking like he had tried to play the advantage. He didn’t, he applied the letter of the law and, unfortunately, he gave us a penalty.”
Grigg despatched the 79th-minute spot-kick, his second penalty of the game, to seal Walsall’s 3-1 victory and bring to end Cherries’ 15-match unbeaten run in League One.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe said: “I think everybody in the stadium saw it as a free-kick except the three officials. Eunan thought he heard a whistle and it was as blatant a free-kick as you could get.
“You can’t really attach any blame to Eunan. He picked up the ball almost in good faith. It is something he will learn from and I don’t think he will ever do it again.”