DESSIE FARRELL has reacted to the "PR disaster" that was the Leinster SFC final by calling for the introduction of video technology to assist referees in major football and hurling matches.
The chief executive of the Gaelic Players Association believes the GAA must learn from last Sunday's debacle and address a raft of fundamental issues. He wants pitch invasions to be outlawed as a criminal offence but he has also called on Croke Park to address the standard of refereeing and to establish a mechanism so that if similar fiascos occur in the future, then the higher authorities and not players will be left to tidy up the mess.
But Farrell's comments on video technology are the most noteworthy. "It's time we explored and debated the whole concept of video refereeing," he told the Evening Herald.
"To use that argument that you cannot introduce that technology for club matches or first round games, that it cannot filter through the system, doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't do it. Because at the end of the day, what went on last Sunday was a PR disaster for us all.
"It's a multi-million euro industry now in terms of sponsors, TV and supporters paying in at the gate. We need to be getting our house in order, to satisfy all those stakeholders.
"I believe in that context, if we could come up with a simple system where the referee had recourse to a video referee who was able to look at the footage; if there was a 30-second break in the game -- the same amount of time it takes to take a kick-out -- we'd be better off."
Moreover, given the "huge commitment and effort" put in by inter-county players, "we need to be doing all we can to get these big decisions right." The GPA chief was "bitterly disappointed" for the vanquished Louth camp. However, he also expressed sympathy for the Meath players who were "placed in a very unenviable position" of essentially having to decide if Louth should be offered a refixture because of the raging controversy over Joe Sheridan's illegal last-gasp goal.
"I think regardless of the rights and wrongs, we need to look on this as a learning opportunity," Farrell expanded. "There are a number of issues that fall out from this. First and foremost would be the standard of refereeing and officiating on big match days -- and within that, the engagement and interaction between officials.
"There also has to be a mechanism established whereby the governing body who control the competition are the final arbiter in a situation like this -- and that it's not the players who end up being scapegoated.
"Obviously you have to respect Meath's decision (not to offer a rematch). People will think it's right; people will think it's wrong. But they should never have been put in that position.
"At the end of the day, the trophy was presented to them last Sunday. There should be some mechanism in place, if there were issues like this, that they can be dealt with by the higher authority."
Farrell viewed Sunday as the final straw on the vexed question of pitch invasions, which place the safety of match officials, players, stewards and supporters themselves at risk. "That just has to be eradicated. A Meath player was assaulted. I believe a former Meath manager was assaulted as well," the players' chief noted.
"We have been working with the GAA already in terms of trying to educate supporters about the dangers of pitch invasions. I think it highlights very, very clearly that this activity has to cease, and the sooner the better.
"I had a conversation (on Tuesday) with a player who, having been beaten in an All-Ireland final, was goaded as he walked from the Cusack Stand side to the Hogan Stand side of the pitch. He was goaded by a victorious supporter the full width of the pitch -- the last thing you should have to deal with (after losing a final)."
As for the best method to discourage pitch invaders, Farrell's personal preference was for legislation as opposed to fences.
"We need to lobby strongly for legislation. It has to be seen as a criminal act," argued the former Dublin All-Ireland winner.
"If someone has a better way, absolutely. Education is a big part as well . . . it doesn't happen in any other sport.
"We need to move away from it, and you need no other examples other than what happened last weekend."