Friday 15 December 2017

Hawk-Eye under the microscope

THE irony of Hawk-Eye coming under the microscope wasn't lost on punters at Croke Park on Sunday as the new technology aimed at eradicating human error made a mess of a first-half Limerick point in their All-Ireland Minor semi-final clash with Galway.

The system clearly suffered a software glitch, but my concern is why the referee had to refer the decision to Hawk-Eye in the first place.

The umpires seemed satisfied it was a point, and it wasn't as if it was an overly high effort, or from a tight angle. It was between the posts and pucked from virtually the middle of the field.

Of course, the problem arose when Hawk-Eye agreed it was a point too, and then contradicted itself! The graphic clearly showed the ball passing between the posts, but the message displayed on the big screens declared a miss.

It was a bit like one umpire running for a white flag, while the other signals a wide, but on this occasion the referee had no-one to consult with, and incorrectly marked it down as a wide - or a MISS in Hawk-Eye speak.

It must have been very frustrating for all involved with Limerick, but to be fair they got an additional 20 seconds and a fairly handy free to level the game up at the end of normal-time, so maybe that balanced things out a bit.

The GAA made the correct choice in standing Hawk-Eye down for the rest of the day, but I hope they don't dispense with the system altogether.

The technology works a treat in tennis and cricket and was even used in the Premiership for the first time at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to confirm a Branislav Ivanovic header hadn't crossed the line.

Certainly, the GAA need to have a strong word with Hawk-Eye top brass to discover what went wrong and seek assurances that it won't happen again, but I wouldn't be throwing the baby out with the bathwater just yet.

Hopefully the incident will lead to clarifications over when Hawk-Eye should be used and who should make the call - the referee, the umpires, a fourth official or should teams have a certain number of vetoes which allows them to have a decision checked out, as happens in tennis and cricket.

Either way, perhaps the next ref might not be so quick to so casually second guess his umpires and only use the technology for the really marginal calls.

The GAA have assured us the Hawk-Eye system will be back in action for the first of Sunday's All-Ireland football semi-finals between Mayo and Tyrone, which has the makings of a fascinating contest.

Mayo looked so good in their quarter-final romp against Donegal, playing the type of football we all want to see, but I doubt they'll get it as easy against the Red Hands on Sunday.

Tyrone will do what Tyrone do best, packing their defence and swarming the man in possession, blocking runners and even fouling when they have to - not unlike Donegal over the past couple of seasons.

The big imponderable is what Mayo will bring to the table. If they don't get off to the type of dream start that saw them annihilate Donegal last time out, will they have a Plan B or Plan C, because they might need both to outfox Mickey Harte.

But I do feel this Mayo team are made of sterner stuff than some of their predecessors. They have a very good manager in James Horan and aren't reliant on any big names like they were on Conor Mortimer or Ciaran McDonald in the past.

For someone who has managed and coached teams, I'll be fascinated to see how the game pans out, with Tyrone sure to come up with a tactical plan for Mayo's free-flowing style.

I certainly think they will be better equipped for the challenge than Donegal, who proved yet again just how hard it is to defend Sam Maguire.

Tyrone have bags of experience and a master tactician in Mickey Harte, but I think the purists will get their wish, with Mayo pulling through.

Fingal Independent

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