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Ref justice can be hard to take

REFEREES are usually judged on how they handle the big calls in major games and last weekend I watched two major games swing on the call of the men in black.

This is a fact of sporting life as the competition narrows and little in the way of ability or application separates the teams. It's usually the bounce of a ball, an accident or incident that swings the match. Or a good or bad call by the referee.

In Cavan where Roscommon were the visitors David Gough (Meath) had a superb game and handled the red card incident just before half-time excellently. The next day, down south in Killarney, Kerry benefited from a wrong call by the otherwise splendid Pádraig Hughes (Armagh).


Why did it work out for one ref and not the other? On this occasion it was all about critical decision making and the sequence one should/must follow when a big call is about to be made. Sound your whistle, consider your decision, discuss with other officials if possible and then decide. This sequence is the critical aspect. Don't back yourself into a corner by making the decision immediately when you don't need to.

David Gough knew something had occurred off the ball, talked it through on his mic with his umpires and because half-time was almost upon us, decided to clarify his position during the break. He bought himself some time, came out for the second half, made the correct call and sent Tomás Corr (Cavan) off.

In the Munster final Pádraig Hughes blew his whistle to signal a stop in play (good decision), walked towards the penalty spot and spread his arms wide to signal a penalty was to be awarded (bad decision - he did not need to indicate anything just yet). He then wobbled a little and went to discuss some matters with his umpires (directly) and possibly his linemen via his mic.

But the damage was done - he had indicated a penalty and in truth he could not go back on that. He should have sequenced his decision-making process better.

Still, he had a splendid game before that decision and went on to have an excellent one after it.