Monday 26 February 2018

Hawk-Eye comes to Croker -- by back door

Denis Bastic, Dublin, and Micky Burke, Meath, watch Bastic's shot go past Meat goalkeeper David Gallagher for Dublin's second goal. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, Dublin.
Denis Bastic, Dublin, and Micky Burke, Meath, watch Bastic's shot go past Meat goalkeeper David Gallagher for Dublin's second goal. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, Dublin.

When Pat McEnaney turned to run back out from the Davin End after deliberating with his umpires over the legality of Benny Coulter's goal early in the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final between Down and Kildare, the giant screen above Hill 16 was still replaying the controversial incident.

After consultation with his umpires Coulter's goal, a well-timed connection with the fist to a delightful Martin Clarke delivery, was allowed to stand.

But McEnaney had scarcely travelled 10 metres outfield when he knew the wrong call was made.

He contemplated turning around.

"I knew coming back out that it wasn't a goal," he recalled last October. "I couldn't see the screen clearly. I was running and the sweat was running down my eyes, but I knew. You always have regrets, 'Jesus Christ why didn't I just go back in like.' I did consider it."

Fast-forward some 23 months and the full impact of how video technology might work at a GAA ground has been felt, somewhat inadvertently.

Midway through the second half of this Leinster final Eoghan O'Gara bustled off a shot at the same Davin End that whistled past the near post on the Hogan Stand side. Which side of the post it had whistled past, however, was unclear.

The umpire seemed to indicate a point, but the referee Marty Duffy looked hesitant. They communicated from distance and then made a decision. Wide.

On the same screen above the Hill that McEnaney had peered through sweat-filled eyes to see the verdict was revealed. Point.

The protocol in these situations is to switch to an advertisement when such controversies are developing. But this slipped through the net and on such an oversight a vision of the future may have been realised.

The crowd roared. Pat Gilroy raced to Maurice Deegan down the sideline and protested. Deegan appeared to have seen the evidence himself and consulted with Duffy.

Two of the quartet of referees most likely to be given the All-Ireland final in two months time -- David Coldrick and Joe McQuillan being the others -- had the experience and authority to over-rule the original decision and declare a point. It was a decision that smacked of common sense, but hadn't a legal leg to stand on.

With Hawk-Eye technology yet to be integrated and looking more unlikely to surface before the end of the summer there is no recourse in rule to what happened at Croke Park yesterday. The officials took the rules into their own hands to dispense justice. At the time the decision had little relevance, pushing Dublin nine points clear.

But, inadvertently, they may have changed the landscape on disputed scores forever. A dangerous precedent has been set. Two officials of lesser experience might have opted not to take the concrete evidence of big screen replay and crowd reaction on board. They may not have felt the authority.

And it will be no comfort to Kildare, who have been on the receiving end of two of the worst decisions in the last two seasons, unless they benefit from such retrospection by the same methods of reflection and consultation.

But what was difficult about it? It caused no undue delay.

Pat Gilroy said the decision was to be "applauded."

"I think it was common sense, they looked up at the big screen and saw it was over," he said. "I think they have to be applauded for that, we give out enough about referees but it was clearly a point and it takes fair guts to go back and change your mind on it.

"At least they have the video replay there, whether it's in the rules or they're supposed to do it, that's a different matter," he said.

"I think it was very sensible. They might get into trouble for it, but I think people will appreciate that was common sense."

It drew no adversity either from Meath manager Seamus McEnaney, whose thoughts were turned to defeating the scourge of the six-day turnaround which his team face.

"Maybe that's something we should take out of today and have a man upstairs to make those bad decisions good again," he said.


For Gilroy, a third Leinster final victory on his watch again provided evidence of the impressive defensive mechanism he has built.

Cian O'Sullivan was only starting his sixth championship match in four seasons, but his athleticism and persistence shone across the half-back line.

Dublin had the finer details of Meath's penetration well-researched. James McCarthy tracked Alan Forde and, early on, it was self-evident that the young tyros who had done so much to unhinge Kildare were never going to get the same latitude. By the break Forde and Damien Carroll were gone.

It was arguably Denis Bastick's finest stint for Dublin, not just for the goal, Dublin's second, he scored.

Even the fouls he committed, eventually earning him a yellow card, were well-timed and more often that not targeted at the right runner.

Twice he scythed down Graham Reilly, the focus of Dublin's more abrasive tackles so often as they sought to reduce his presence.

Reilly still managed to spin over three more points to take his championship tally to 18 points, but his two wides are likely to linger longer in the memory as they came at critical times and involved the type of approach work that gives oxygen to a team.

But the defensive performance of Donal Keogan and the willingness to keep chasing what looked like a lost cause on the three-quarter mark bode well. Beat Laois next weekend and they can declare it a very decent season that has turned on its head.

Ultimately, Dublin exploited space better and when Alan Brogan was on the field, they looked in a different class to Meath.

They arrive in an All-Ireland quarter-final playing just a little better than they were at the same stage last year when they exploded against Tyrone. Is the same pathway being taken now?

"The time to be outstanding is from August onwards, that's the reality of it," said gilroy.

"Hopefully, in two weeks' time a lot of the things that nearly worked today will actually click."

The signs are ominous.

Irish Independent

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