Sunday 22 July 2018

Comment: The GAA needs VAR or a TMO because referees shouldn't be using conjecture to make big calls

Referee James Owens consults with his umpires before they indicated a wide during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Clare and Limerick at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Referee James Owens consults with his umpires before they indicated a wide during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Clare and Limerick at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Assume... it makes an ass of you and me.

The GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) will rescind David Reidy's red card without the need for much debate because they will embarrass themselves, James Owens and his officials if they don't.

The indignation that has flowed since a bemused Reidy marched begrudgingly to the sideline is justified. It's not the first time that officials have missed something but have joined the dots and came up with the wrong call.

When referees and those charged with helping him enter the fraught realm of conjecture these things happen.

It's like a blindfolded child swinging at a gummy bear-filled pinyata but the issue is the fact that the GAA have put the bat in their hand.

In the absence of information, Owens assumed the worst of Reidy and the best of Diarmuid Byrnes.

The GAA disciplinary system is weighted heavily against the accused and so too is the rulebook when official go with their gut.

It seems like every Monday morning we are opening the newspaper to managers 'fuming', 'slamming', 'hitting out' and 'enraged' at questionable calls.

It's easy to point the finger at the man in black but he has been placed in an almost impossible position by rules that are open to interpretation. The tackle rules in both hurling and football are particularly bad. They exist in the grey.

If they follow the rules strictly they are not letting the game flow, if they are more selective with their use of the whistle they are accused of bias.

How long these problems persist is up to the GAA and in particular, their annual congress.

One idea that has been continually proposed is the introduction of a second referee, especially in hurling where the game is being played at speed and where the point of action can change dramatically in an instant, but it's clear that a soccer-style VAR system or a variation on rugby's TMO is required.

Giving a second referee access to all the angles available who can halt play or bring it back where necessary would give under-fire referees deserved respite, deny losing managers an easy out and give players the certainty their months and months of toil deserves.

Eddie Brennan posed a very interesting question on The Sunday Game last night, who was James Owens speaking to via his microphone as they deliberated the Reidy red. Does that person exist within the rules of An Treoir Oifiguil?

With Hawkeye only available at Croker and Semple, a 'Scores Assistant' like the one deployed in Ladies Football would also be a welcome development.

Any objections on the grounds that the introduction of such a system would slow the game down should be totally quashed by what happened to Waterford this year against Tipp.

A deserved Déise win in that game would have totally altered the Munster championship and the context of yesterday's game in Thurles.

The rules are doing our games an injustice and it's time for radical change.

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