Net gains can make point with wayward umpires
OFFALY out-scored Galway by a point last Sunday, yet find themselves preparing for a replay in Portlaoise next Saturday. If the market is to be believed -- and it was way off last Sunday -- Galway, who are priced at 1/10, will produce a better all-round performance this time to see off Offaly, the 7/1 outsiders. Time will tell, but those odds look skewed.
There was a lot more to Offaly's performance than the traditional power surge that accompanies their championship meetings with Galway, the credit for which can be shared between the players and manager Joe Dooley.
The manner in which the Offaly forwards took on their markers man-to-man was clearly pre-planned. It pointed to a belief, which was vindicated, that the Galway defence was vulnerable to direct attacks by the ball-carrier.
Uniquely in hurling, Galway had five of the six defenders who played in the championship five years ago. Galway lost the All-Ireland final to Cork in 2005, so if the defence wasn't good enough that day -- or in the intervening years -- it's difficult to understand how so many of them are still the county's number one choices in 2010.
Yet, when it came to making an adjustment last Sunday, newcomer Donal Barry was the only one replaced. He was under pressure, but hardly any more so than the seasoned quintet around him.
In the end, Galway were happy to get out with a draw but, of course, they should have lost, having been awarded a point for Ger Farragher's early sideline cut that was actually wide.
This type of error crops up from time to time, sparking calls for the introduction of 'hawkeye' technology. Forget it, folks, it's not going to happen. Apart from the expense of devising and manufacturing such a system, think of the technical difficulties of installing it at all county grounds.
Besides, if soccer, complete with its world-wide base, continues to ignore technology as an aid to making decisions, is it really practical for a small amateur organisation like the GAA to wander into what is a complex area?
Rugby uses technology for a specific purpose, which does not extend to the flight of the ball or whether a player made a forward pass or had a foot in touch while running, or other such issues.
Still, there are a number of things the GAA could do to cut down on umpiring errors (there was also controversy over a score in the Cork-Kilkenny camogie game last weekend).
Why not fit an upper net, extending from the crossbar to the top of the posts? That would eradicate the majority of questionable calls, leaving the only doubts surrounding balls that were above the posts.
Why have the ball and the posts the same colour? That makes it more difficult for umpires to adjudicate on the flight of the ball, whereas contrasting colours would show up quite clearly.
Most of all, why do umpires stand so close to the uprights? Surely one of them should be behind the goal, certainly for frees, '45s', '65s' and line balls.
Offaly made no fuss over last Sunday's lucky break for Galway on the basis that it wasn't going to change anything. They're still in the tie and felt it would be better to concentrate on that rather than wasting energy on something outside their control.
The same thing happened to them in the 2004 Leinster football championship, where they lost by a point to Westmeath having seen a wide by Brian Morley signalled as a point.
Westmeath went on to win their first Leinster title that year, while Offaly were eliminated in the qualifiers. Who knows how different that season might have been for both Offaly and Westmeath if their game had been a draw?
At least this time Offaly hurlers got a draw, but they might just as easily be preparing for the Leinster final, which, at the least, carries an All-Ireland quarter-final place.
As it is, the path to the last six is littered with landmines. If Offaly lose to Galway, they will have to beat Clare or Limerick in their first qualifier, followed by one from Tipperary, Wexford, Laois, Antrim or Carlow to reach the quarter-finals.
That's a tough route forced on Offaly, in theory at least, by a wrong call last Sunday.