Linesmen can be extra eyes for big calls
Published 27/06/2011 | 05:00
Are referees providing enough protection for star forwards? Pat Gilroy had no doubt that justice was well served by Cormac Reilly's decision to award Bernard Brogan a crucial free right at the end of yesterday's Leinster semi-final and also claimed that his star No 15 should could have got seven or eight other frees in the course of the game.
The referee adjudged that Kildare defender Andriu MacLochlainn fouled Brogan off the ball as they raced for possession, a decision that other officials might have avoided. After all, it's easier to ignore a borderline call deep in stoppage time when the sides are level.
The Leinster Council would have welcomed the replay revenue (it would have worth around €500,000), Kildare would have been delighted with the second chance and it's unlikely Dublin would have complained very much either.
However, Reilly called it as he saw it, rightly deciding that his job was to adjudicate on fouls, not worry about the impact it would have.
Still, Gilroy's comments that it was time to decide on whether "we want to see good forwards being pulled" opens the debate as to whether they get a fair deal.
The sneaky tug of the jersey, often when the ball isn't even in close proximity, has long been a feature of Gaelic football and, in fairness to referees, it can be very difficult to spot.
Modern-day referees are good at keeping up with play but they still can't always spot if a player is pulled back a long way from the ball.
Is it time to get linesmen involved in the decision-making? Their equivalents in soccer take charge of offside but there's nothing a GAA linesman can do if he spots a technical offence which the referee misses.
Defenders wouldn't always lose out if linesmen were allowed to adjudicate on off-the-ball fouling.
It's easy for star forwards to claim that they are the victims of all sorts of chicanery by devious defenders but the attackers aren't above the occasional bit of trickery themselves.
Forwards foul defenders too but very often get away with it.
It's a pity that yesterday's intense encounter ended in controversy. Had Reilly waved play on and the game had finished level, he would have been accused of engineering a replay bonanza for the Leinster Council but he made the hard decision.
The debate over whether star forwards are getting enough protection from referees will rumble on because, as things stand, there will always be a doubt when a referee has to make a long-range decision which very often can be based on no more than a hunch.
It would be far easier -- and fairer -- all round if linesmen had a role. After all, defenders and forwards would be less likely to foul off the ball if they feared the watchful eyes of two more officials.