Thursday 27 April 2017

Time now please, ladies and gentlemen, for bad time-keeping

Referee Seamus Mulvihill is escorted from the pitch after the game
Referee Seamus Mulvihill is escorted from the pitch after the game
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I’m sure of my time. It was a Friday morning, yesterday to be exact, and the winter of 2015-2016 came a calling at quarter to ten, to be exact.

Hailstones as big as Adam’s apples turned the Garden of Eden into the frozen south. The sky turned a Golgotha black. Frozen fingers went the yellow of tooth tartar. A passing polar bear asked if there was a zoo nearby and a pair of bandy-legged penguins booked flights to Puerto Del Carmen.

The old saying states that, “The man who made time, made plenty of it”. Now it is winter time. There’s never enough summer or autumn time.

Blowing

And there’s never enough time in the GAA what with teeming fixture lists and refs blowing early or late.

We will take you back to Sunday last and the final few minutes of the Kerry county football final between Legion and South Kerry.

Two minutes of additional time was signalled by the referee Seamus Mulvihill. He then allowed play for nearly four extra minutes in total. And Legion equalised in the last few seconds.

South Kerry had a go at the ref. He was, we were told, guilty of after hours. There was much adverse media comment. I have never heard a ref being so severely knocked. I have never read or heard so much ill-informed comment.

Seamus Mulvihill signalled to his linesman for two minutes’ extra time. Between the 60th and just short of the 64th minute there was ample justification for allowing so much additional time yet Mulvihill, an up-and-coming young ref, was the subject of some savage criticism.

Most newspapers showed the photograph of the ref leaving the field, flanked by two gardaí. I doubt if there would have been any violence, but the gardaí, quite rightly, weren’t taking any chances.

The extra time called is usually rounded out to the nearest minute but the extra time may have been two minutes and 20 seconds.

And the extra time was announced on the PA  some 20 seconds after the end of normal time.

Here’s the timeline:

30 mins and 20 seconds: Two minutes of extra time announced on the PA.

31 mins: Yellow card shown. Substitution. Play stopped for 54 seconds.

32:25: Foul. Game restarted at 32:49.

33 mins: Legion wide.

Kick-out at 33:25.

33:30: Sideline ball for Legion. Ball kicked away by someone on South Kerry sideline. Takes 25 seconds.

Equalising point kicked nine seconds later by Legion .

Seamus Mulvihill had it almost bang on. It was cool and accurate refereeing.

We have often criticised referees here and it’s not a job I like doing. Refs have friends and families and the majority are in it for the love of the game.  They are amateurs who do a job most of us would never dream of doing.

There’s the abuse from Hollywood mammies and daddies all the way through from U-12 to senior and hardly any ref has escaped an attack, either verbal or physical.

 But maybe it’s time to take time-keeping away from the referees.

The system works fine in ladies football with a hooter ending the game. What are ye afraid of lads?

Is it how ye think the crowd will rush for the gates when the multitude hear the siren, thinking they’re late for the Dart home or maybe it’s how ye think the bawlin’ of the un-milked cows would tear the heart out of all animal lovers.

There was plenty of time to milk the cows after this year’s All-Ireland football final.

Stephen Cluxton took far too much time at free-kicks. His walks up the field were carried out with the measured gait and pace of a drinking man who is waiting for the missus to go to bed.

He effectively decided the tempo and duration of the game.

One estimate gives a figure of four minutes of delay over and above the average time it takes to deal with placed balls. There were four minutes of additional time played in total. For all delays.

Dublin were the better team and would have won it anyway but in the 2011 All-Ireland final there was only one minute of extra time. One minute. I felt Kerry could easily have gone up the field and equalised if there was fair time-keeping that day.

Then there was the curse of Biddy Two Minutes Early. Clare were three points up on Offaly in the 1998 hurling semi when the ref blew up two minutes before the end of time.

The Offaly fans staged a sit-down protest after the game. So far as I know the Faithful did not sing ‘We Shall Overcome’, but Offaly did win the right to a rematch. Sporting Clare consented to the replay and were beaten by Offaly. Referees are terrible time-keepers. But I do have some sympathy for them. They have enough on their hands as it is.

The old GAA argument against time-keeping by an eighth, yes an eighth official, is that the rule could not be implemented at club level due to staffing shortages and poor technology.

There are clock stoppages in rugby in the pro-game but not down the line and no one seems to be in the least bit put out.

I’m sure you would agree, there is some small difference between a Junior C first round league game played on a mountainy meadow on the dark side of  a satellite where the only form communications possible is the semaphore of the umpires, and an All-Ireland final in Croke Park where murmurs from Martian amoeba are audible.

It could be there is at this very moment a GAA activist who is composing a time and motion proposal for his local convention, along on the lines of “Time now please, ladies and gentlemen. Time to call time on bad time-keeping.”

This time-keeping business is surely a job for specialists and there was none better than my mother who could clear a pub in seconds.

Her refrain was, “Ye don’t have to go home, but ye can’t stay here.”

And she had no hooter either.

Irish Independent

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