Tuesday 28 February 2017

Use of video technology won't work in the GAA

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

There was no shortage of controversy surrounding Benny Coulter's goal for Down on Sunday, but it should also be remembered that Kildare's Eamonn Callaghan took plenty of steps before eventually firing the ball past Down goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh. Photo: Sportsfile
There was no shortage of controversy surrounding Benny Coulter's goal for Down on Sunday, but it should also be remembered that Kildare's Eamonn Callaghan took plenty of steps before eventually firing the ball past Down goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh. Photo: Sportsfile

THE biggest mistake when confronting a problem is to apply the wrong solution which merely adds to the quandary.

It's more sensible to strip down the original difficulty and work on correcting it by removing the malfunctioning parts. After all, if the brakes on your car are faulty, you don't respond by putting a block under the accelerator to keep the speed down, making it easier to stop.

That's why proposals to introduce video technology in an attempt to reduce the impact of officiating errors at GAA games are -- in my view -- not only the wrong solution, but would actually worsen the situation.

Kildare won't agree after conceding a crucial goal to Down last Sunday when they should have been awarded a free out for a square ball infringement against Benny Coulter, but what of Eamonn Callaghan's goal? It looked as if he had taken too many steps before booting the ball to the Down net, but referee Pat McEnaney adjudged otherwise so the goal stood. If technology were in use would it have been applied to disallow one goal, but not the other?

Selective

The key point about using technology to decide on infringements is this: it cannot be used on a selective basis. It would be easy to apply it only for square ball disputes or -- as in the case of Meath's controversial goal against Louth in the Leinster final -- to ascertain if the ball was dispatched over the line in a legal manner, but it would also be grossly unfair.

A player taking too many steps before scoring -- or, indeed, before passing to a player who scores -- is as guilty of an offence as an early intruder into the square. And what of the sly push in the back in the build-up to a score or the illegal pick-up or handpass? Aren't they as influential as the square ball?

Once technology applies, it has to be used everywhere and not just in the final seconds before a score is completed. Otherwise, it's a total sham. Presidential candidate Liam O'Neill says that "in the determination of scores and square balls that result in scores, recourse to the video should be used."

However, all scores originate somewhere so an offence committed 100 metres from goal can be just as crucial as the square ball in terms of scoring a goal, yet nobody is advocating reviewing action that far back, or, indeed, as far back as Callaghan was when he tested the steps rule on Sunday.

One of the biggest red herrings tossed into the debating pool on the technology issue relates to its use in rugby. Unlike GAA where its advocates want to see it introduced to decide on offences, it applies in rugby ONLY to ascertain whether the ball has been grounded properly over the try line or, if required, to decide if a conversion or penalty has gone between the posts.

It has no function whatsoever in relation to offences, whether they apply to offside, a forward pass, or whatever. Presumably that's because if it did include those areas, many tries would be followed by demands that the referee consult the video-ref to ascertain if an offence had been committed in the build-up.

If the GAA introduces a video ref to adjudicate on certain offences, the pressure on the match referee to refer 'upstairs' all the time will be enormous and will result in more rows than it resolves.

However, that doesn't mean that there can't be a major reduction on mistakes caused by human error. Take the square ball issue. Under the experimental regulations which applied in this year's NFL, Coulter could have been standing in the square long before the ball came in and, provided he didn't foul an opponent, would be perfectly entitled to challenge for the ball as he did last Sunday. For reasons unrelated to logic, Congress voted down the proposal together with some other enterprising advances in other areas.

So, instead of introducing video technology to police a rule that's unnecessary and unhelpful, why not banish it in favour of the sensible replacement which operated last spring?

As for the increasing number of disputes over whether a shot is a score or a wide, the system which Sportsworld Netting, Scariff and Goalpost Ireland, Tallow are working on appears to have considerable merit.

In broad terms, it involves a second post fitted behind the first with a net attached to both so that if the ball is wide it will clearly drop outside. The system also involves increasing the height of the posts as it can be extremely difficult to adjudicate on a ball that flies well above the standard uprights.

Fitting such a mechanism to decide on scores is altogether different from introducing technology to decide on where -- and indeed whether -- a foul has been committed before or during the making of a score. Technology might sound like the answer to human error, but if introduced to decide on fouls, then it will cause utter chaos because apart from anything else, opinions will still be divided irrespective of how many times the rewind button is pressed.

Time to stop officials watching 'neighbours'

IT goes without saying that Pat McEnaney and his umpires are men of the highest integrity who did their best to get every decision right in the last Sunday's Down-Kildare game.

However, it doesn't alter the perception difficulty that the GAA has created by appointing officials from the same province as one of the competing counties. It was the same a week earlier when Maurice Deegan (Laois) refereed Dublin v Cork.

Surely, in everybody's interest, including referees, it would make sense to appoint province-neutral officials. I bet it will apply for the football final.

Galway get short straw with 'away' draw in final

All-Ireland finalists are equal, but some are more equal than others. In the case of Tipperary U-21 hurlers, they are very definitely the chosen ones, having been handed a home venue in Semple Stadium for the final against Galway on Saturday week.

It was neutral venues for the semi-finals, but the GAA are now sending two contrasting messages to underage players looking forward to a huge day in their careers. They're offering the Tipperary lads home comforts, while ordering Galway to accept the unfairness of life.

The Dublin-Donegal U-21 football final was played in Cavan last May, so why depart from the neutral venue policy in hurling? And why discriminate against one team? After all, it's not as if Thurles was chosen on the toss of a coin.

Irish Independent

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