Thursday 21 September 2017

Refs still not good enough

John Greene

John Greene

Now that the GAA's football and hurling championships are over it's time for the association to face up to an issue which has been shown up more than any other in the last four months.

It's not attendances, or blanket defences, or handpasses, or Hawk-Eye which the GAA needs to address, it's referees -- or more accurately the standard of refereeing. Last Sunday's minor and senior finals were poorly refereed, as were the minor and senior finals in hurling two weeks earlier. It is simply not good enough that the four showpiece games of the year should be blighted in this way. Rather than investing huge sums in Hawk-Eye, the GAA needs to go back to basics and look at its refereeing structures, starting from the bottom up.

Joe McQuillan's performance was error-strewn from start to finish. In fairness to the Cavan official, he was appointed to the senior final on merit for his performances this year as he was certainly one of the better referees.

But last Sunday McQuillan (pictured) simply made too many mistakes, four of which were critical and led to a four-point swing in Dublin's favour. Three frees were incorrectly awarded to Dublin which led to three points, and a blatant pick off the ground in front of his own goal by Cian O'Sullivan, which would have led to a Kerry point, was missed.

This is too much in a game of inches, in a game so keenly and closely contested as the All-Ireland final was and which was ultimately decided by just one point.

Referees will make mistakes, it's inevitable, but these need to be minimised and crucial decisions which affect a game's outcome have to be correct. Too many in the last two years have been wrong and needlessly so.

The GAA needs to take a three-pronged approach to improving refereeing: the rule book needs to be reworked and simplified, and players need to be educated properly on the rules; there needs to better training and screening of referees; and umpires, linesmen and the sideline official need to be given greater powers to assist the referee.

Just like players, no referee goes out to have a bad day. Players are now coached to extraordinarily high standards to lessen the chances of them having a bad day when it matters, and the same approach needs to be taken with referees. For everybody's sake.

jgreene@independent.ie

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