'O'Garagate' bolsters case for TMO system
THE GAA may be insisting that the big-screen rerun had nothing to do with the decision to award a point to Dublin in the second half of Sunday's Leinster final, after Eoghan O'Gara's kick had initially been waved wide, but the incident has raised a number of important issues, which could come back to haunt referees and their officials.
'O'Garagate' ended satisfactorily after the error in signalling his kick wide was corrected but the circumstances leading up to the overturn remain somewhat unclear. Croke Park are adamant that linesman Maurice Deegan, who had a good view of the ball's trajectory from O'Gara's kick, set about bringing the mistake to the referee's attention immediately after a wide had been signalled.
However, the majority of the 69,656 crowd assumed that the decision was overturned when the stadium screens clearly showed that the ball had gone over the bar.
It was only after the video re-run and consultation with Deegan that referee Marty Duffy instructed the umpire to wave the white flag, a decision which drew a huge cheer from the Dublin supporters, while also calming manager Pat Gilroy.
Gilroy is usually the epitome of composure on the sideline but became apoplectic after O'Gara's kick was waved wide. He gestured furiously to the linesman and the fourth official, urging them to check the big screens. Controversial incidents are not usually screened but the O'Gara kick was shown, proving beyond doubt that a point should have been awarded.
There's a crucial difference of emphasis between the public view of what happened and the official Croke Park version. The spectators believed that the screening of the incident led to the point being awarded, while Croke Park insist that the process was under way from the moment Deegan realised a mistake had been made and that the stadium screen re-run had nothing to do with it.
The GAA are anxious to convince the public that this indeed was the case as there is no provision in rule -- or indeed interpretation of rule -- allowing for a decision to be made on the basis of a video re-run on stadium screens.
If that were to happen it would effectively be a case of officials making up their own rules to suit a particular occasion.
Video re-runs of the incident suggest that the referee made the original decision not to award a point. One umpire, who was standing behind the goal and well placed to make a call, appeared to be about to signal a point but, with the Meath defenders screaming their case, the referee indicated a wide.
The umpire signalled accordingly and shortly afterwards the screens showed that a point had been scored, which was duly acknowledged by the referee and umpire.
What would have happened if the incident had not been rerun on the screen? Would the referee have accepted the word of the linesman and overturned his own original decision? Why did the referee not consult with his umpire before signalling a wide?
Whatever the official explanation from Croke Park, there is now a view among the public that a decision was changed after an error was shown up on the big screens. That, in turn, will lead to calls for other controversial decisions involving scores to be reviewed on the big screen in future.
However, that is not allowed under rule but the argument will be made that if a rerun was shown in the Leinster final, it should apply for other games too.
Also, the fact that the rerun was screened within seconds will bolster the case among those who claim that, similar to rugby, a Television Match Official (TMO) should be in place at GAA games in order to make adjudications on close calls which can be sorted out pretty quickly on video.
The GAA is currently experimenting with Hawk-Eye, the sophisticated ball detection system used in tennis and cricket. However, ordinary TV cameras were more than adequate to deal with Sunday's incident.
Deegan's intervention has been widely praised but there's also a school of thought which queries whether the addition to the rule dealing with various officials' powers, which came into effect at the start of the championship, allows a linesman to adjudicate on scores.
'O'Garagate' has brought the use of technology back on to the agenda, especially since Sunday's incident showed how easy it would be to review controversial calls on scores/wides. It now remains to be seen if Croke Park will order a ban on showing such controversies on the big screens in future.