Top referees offer mixed appraisal of experimental rules
TOP referees Marty Duffy and Diarmuid Kirwan have given their verdict on the football and hurling experimental playing rules.
Duffy and Kirwan were in Dublin yesterday to receive their respective Referee of the Year awards, sponsored by Vodafone.
They were hailed by GAA President Christy Cooney as "two of the very best in the business" and their views on the experimental rules are timely, given that Congress will vote on them the weekend after next.
Football ref Duffy, from Sligo, endorsed the key alterations in the big-ball code, saying: "I think overall they have been good for the game.
"The players and the management have bought into the likes of the mark, the handpass, and the square ball.
"They were the three big ones, really, from a footballing point of view, and all have worked well."
Kirwan, one of the top hurling referees, is not a fan of two rules: the punishment for a goalkeeper leaving the square as he pucks out the sliotar, and the forwards being allowed into the square before the ball arrives.
The Cork official admitted that prior to the league starting, he was in favour of experimenting with a throw-in ball if a goalkeeper went out of bounds during a puck-out.
Prior to these rules being tested, a '65' was awarded, and after six rounds of NHL action, Kirwan and his fellow referees have seen enough.
"We had our referees league meeting seminar last week, and we spoke about the experimental rules that have been applied in the NHL this year," he said.
"Personally, before the league started, I would have been all for the throw-in ball, and doing way with the '65'. But the throw-in ball at this stage is getting so unmanageable for referees, it's getting impossible to apply it.
"I think it's going to revert to the status quo where if the goalkeeper pucks the ball out from outside the square, the '65' will remain."
On the issue of forwards being allowed into the square, Kirwan and his fellow match officials don't feel it has worked as intended.
"The unanimous decision from referees is that we stay with the status quo because it's gone to the stage now that you're just trying to judge was the player going for the ball? Was he going for the goalkeeper? How many were in on top of the goalkeeper?
"It's just impossible to judge, so we reckon that it should stay as it was -- that if the player's inside the square, it's a free out," said Kirwan.
On a positive note, Kirwan said: "We've no problem with bringing in the throw-in ball 10 metres from the sideline. That takes away a lot of the tension with the managers and substitutes along the sideline, which is a big help.
"And the other one, of course, is defining the striking action of the handpass.
"That has been a plus as well because it was getting to the stage where it was just impossible to judge it."
And what about the time-keeping issue, and the ball needing to be out of play before the ref gives the 'game over' signal?
Said Duffy: "The one or two cases where there was a problem have been honed in on, but in the majority of games it's been an advantage and everybody knows how it's going to work."
Kirwan would like the 'ball out of play' rule altered, so that if it is to stay, the game should end either with a score or a wide.
"Last Sunday, I was in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, and to see a player just getting the ball and driving it over the sideline to finish the game, it looked a bit strange to be honest," he said.
"The rule does need tweaking, definitely. It should either be from a wide ball or a score. It looks strange for a player to get the ball and drive it out over the sideline. It doesn't look right."