Camogie refs prepare for summer in spotlight
CAMOGIE referees will be the latest match officials to come under close scrutiny this summer. The first panel of five referee assessors has been put in place and will randomly assess performances during this summer's Gala All-Ireland championships.
Inconsistent decision-making has been a contentious point, with some believing that refereeing standards have not kept pace with the rapidly accelerated levels of skill and speed among camogie's top players.
The introduction of assessors is an acknowledgment that the standard of refereeing needs improving, but camogie president Joan O'Flynn said that she does not feel it is a major issue.
"The idea is not to police referees, but to support them," she said. "This is also the first step to an official grading structure and a pathways programme for referees."
This is the latest move in a radical overhaul of the sport.
The association launched a new five-year plan recently and yesterday announced its revamped senior championship format in which every team will play each other before the knockout stages.
One blow to the sport was the GAA's decision to pull out of their three-year joint venture of playing the All-Ireland U-21 hurling final in conjunction with the camogie finals, a practice that helped bring a new audience to the women's game.
But O'Flynn refused to criticise the GAA's withdrawal, saying she preferred to concentrate on the positive aspect of the change, which is that the All-Ireland intermediate final will also now be played in Croke Park on September 12, along with the senior and junior finals.
"There's never before been three camogie finals here in one day, so I see that as a terrific opportunity to showcase the game and make it camogie's big day of the year," O'Flynn said.
"Restructuring the senior championship so that there are seven rounds, seven weekends on the trot (starting June 12), should also give it greater momentum and create a lot of interest," she added.
After winning four of the last five All-Ireland senior titles, Cork will be expected to figure strongly again this year, as will last year's beaten finalists Kilkenny.
But Wexford, who won the 2007 title, and beaten 2008 finalists Galway, are also tipped to be in the shake-up.