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Colm Keys: 'Tipping point for what football refs can absorb and apply has been reached'

 

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'There is none busier than a Gaelic football referee these days'. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

'There is none busier than a Gaelic football referee these days'. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

'There is none busier than a Gaelic football referee these days'. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Did that ball travel 20 metres? Yes, no, maybe. Where did it originate from? It looked like it was just short of the 45-metre line. Or on it. This game is fast. Anyway, here's the kick. But did he take more than 15 seconds standing over it? Never mind. It's a point.

Where's that pencil and notebook? Wait, no, there's some confusion here, one of the defenders is waving his arms furiously, remonstrating with one of the umpires. He says it's wide. Better go in, sort it out. That language isn't great, actually it's over the top. It warrants the sin bin. Off he goes.

Start the clock for the sin bin, instruct the green flag to go up, get back out. That's a ball flying over my head, quick kick-out. Was it taken from the right spot, the 13-metre line? Did it cross the 20-metre line? Sorry, that was last year. Was there a kicking tee used? Good catch. But where's the 45-metre line? Close. He's taking the mark. No, he's playing on. How long was that? They all backed off. Anyway, keep up.

Ouch! That looked high. Or was he dipping down into tackle, inviting it? Maybe not as bad as it looked. It's a free and a noting. The crowd are getting hot and bothered about it though. He's already on a yellow card. But it's a noting. Here's another substitute, waving a slip. What did I do with the other slips?

They're in this pocket, with the official team lists. At least I hope those team lists are still there.

Play on. That's a decent run. But how many steps? Give the benefit of the doubt. But is that a second hop? Free out. What about that player sinbinned earlier? Are the 10 minutes up? Another 30 seconds.

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Former referee Pat McEnaney. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Former referee Pat McEnaney. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Former referee Pat McEnaney. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Play on. There's a couple of handpasses there in sequence but was there a fisted or underhand action with an open hand for both? Better keep moving. That's a decent ball across the goalmouth. Great touch - goal.

But was he in the square before the pass was made? Think so but can't be sure. Let it stand. Here's the black-carded player from earlier back on. And the others are bringing in a subs. Check the time for the black-carded player first, now record the score, now get that sub's slip to safety.

Where are we? Short kick-out. Did it travel 13 metres? Clean pick-up off the ground! The ball was rolling but his foot wasn't underneath. Free in. I'll mark the spot, buy some time. But the free-taker has no gumshield. Isn't that the second time? He's failed to comply with my first instruction. Yellow card. But it's still a free. There's a defender waving his arms though, so move it in 13 metres, straight in front of the goal. Point. Where's that notebook again? What way are we for time, sin bin time and actual time?

The above sequence - which could appropriately be played out with the theme song from 'Trainspotting' in the background - might well be a three- or four-minute snapshot of a club referee's experience in 2020, now that a sin bin and an advanced mark have been added to their workload. If you want something done, ask a busy person, it seems. And there is none busier than a Gaelic football referee these days.

The passing of the new measures sparked obvious concerns for figures connected to refereeing, the former national match officials manager Pat Doherty and former referee Pat McEnaney among them. At national level, where a team of seven assists a referee, including a fourth official to take care of paperwork surrounding substitutions, and there is access at two venues to Hawk-Eye, the workload is more streamlined.

Out on their own, relying on local assistance sometimes, a referee has little chance of being able to bring clarity all the time to such an additional subjective decisions as the distance a ball has travelled for an advanced mark to be taken, on top of all their other responsibilities.

Between rules of play, set play, scores, technical fouls, aggressive fouls and dissent there are 109 different rules for which a referee to give consideration to.

Some rules, contained in part two of the Official Guide, contain numerous clauses.

Some are straightforward and second nature but it gives context to what a referee has to apply every time he/she takes charge of a game.

The new rules may or may not improve the game. Attacks started from kick-passes in this year's championship, based on analysis done by the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, showed that there was a four per cent increase in the number of attacks starting by a kick, up to 27 per cent from 23 per cent last year. In every year since 2011 that figure had declined. Perhaps the mark experimentation in the league contributed to that.

But one way or another it feels like a tipping point for what they can take on board is close to being reached. Measures to simplify what they are being asked to apply will surely be warmly welcomed.

Irish Independent