Spotlight on referees

Spotlight on referees
It surely would have been a travesty had Clare lost to Cork in last Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final. They outclassed their opponents for most of this game until Cork got a couple of late goals to go a point ahead with time almost up Clare actually equalised after the allotted two minutes of injury time had been played.

It surely would have been a travesty had Clare lost to Cork in last Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final. They outclassed their opponents for most of this game until Cork got a couple of late goals to go a point ahead with time almost up Clare actually equalised after the allotted two minutes of injury time had been played.

The best team is supposed to win but defensive indiscipline cost Clare dearly. The referee had a nightmare of a game. Obviously, I am biased towards Clare and would have liked to see them win.

That still would not influence my opinion of the referee’s performance. He handed Cork a few frees here and there which kept them within reach of Clare.

There was one particular incident which highlighted the referee’s performance. A Clare defender won a great ball on his 13 metre line. As he tried to clear his lines, a Cork player caught him across the arm with his hurling stick across his arm. A lesser man would have hit the deck and got his free. Instead he carried on and subsequently lost the ball to a Cork man. This resulted in a point for Cork.

Clare was furious with the referee in the aftermath. It is not good enough that a referee can influence a game in such a manner. I hope that Clare do go on to win the replay because I feel they were done an injustice last Sunday. I also hope that the referee on the day will have a better day at the office..

Next season sees the introduction of the ‘black’ card. This is going to cause a lot of confusion for players, managers and referees in particular. The black card is basically a deterrent against cynical play defined as tripping, pulling down and body checking. The offending player is sent off but a replacement can come on.

There is no need for a black card. If the referees displayed consistency and adhered to the rules which are already there, the black card would be unnecessary. Referees will always come in for harsh criticism whatever the sport and whatever the rules. In our Gaelic games I would like to see our referees be made accountable for their actions or inactions. Wire them up as they do in rugby.

In any given dressing room at any given level, a team manager will always have the referee as one of the main topics of discussion for his players. The main reason is that, as mentioned earlier, he can have a massive influence on proceedings in a game.

Our games have many, many rules, all of which can be interpreted differently by different referees. The referee should be anonymous in a game if he is officiating properly.

I was sent off four times in my lifetime and I have to admit that the referees were correct. Once was in an U-14 hurling match, once in a junior championship game and the other two occasions were in senior league games in Donegal. So you see I wasn’t a saint! All four victims of my rash reactions survived. Two of these men are current active high profile members of our great GAA organisation. They still take a step back and look at me warily whenever we meet.

Times have moved on rapidly both for us and our current referees. I believe that I would have made a great referee but, unfortunately, I feel that I had to put my time into giving something back to the game as a manager than listening to the likes of me on a sideline somewhere in the nether regions of Donegal.

That said, I admire those men and woman who traverse our county and country to officiate at games. Without them we would have no football or hurling. I just wish our inter-county referees would be consistent, in good physical condition, officiate with common sense, call a foul when there is one and forget about advantage play.

Yes hurling and football are only games, but they are the heartbeat of every parish in the country. There are people like myself who live and breathe it. If you watched the football match between Dublin and Kerry last Sunday week and the hurling match between Clare and Cork last Sunday, then you will have gone through a roller coaster of emotions.

Our national games set us apart from every other country in the world and we should be tremendously proud of them.

Our inter-county players give up an inordinate amount of time to entertain us. My message to our inter-county referees is to shape up and try to work at achieving uniformity.

Your country depends on you!