Tuesday 20 March 2018

Curley admits refs are 'guessing' on square ball

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

AS KILDARE fumed over another pivotal decision that affected their chance of a shot at an All-Ireland title, the country's top refereeing official admitted yesterday that they are reduced to "guessing" when they are applying the current square ball rule.

The Lilywhites are furious at referee David Coldrick's decision to over-rule one of his umpires and disallow what looked like a legitimate goal against Donegal last Saturday as a square ball.

Television footage indicated that Tomas O'Connor deliberately checked his run to avoid breaking the rule and then scored a legitimate goal when he moved into the small square to pounce on a ball that had ricocheted off the woodwork.

But Coldrick, like all GAA referees, has no access to slow-motion replays and the chairman of the national referees' committee, Mick Curley, conceded yesterday that the square ball rule is particularly difficult to implement.

"The rule as it exists now means referees often have to guess really -- guess where the flight of the ball is over the square and guess where the player was in relation to that flight," he admitted.

"On a windy day especially, when a ball is kicked long, it travels far faster than a referee can travel and makes it very hard to judge.

"We had a much better solution with the previous experimental rule. It wasn't perfect either but it made the job a lot easier for referees. We wanted that to be kept, big-time, but Congress threw it out."

That experiment allowed players to move into the square once they were not in it when the ball was initially kicked.

Another top referee, Westmeath's Barry Kelly, who has been in charge of two All-Ireland senior hurling finals, backed up Curley's view in a separate interview on Kildare FM radio.

"It is a bit like the offside in soccer, It's pretty much impossible to adjudicate on a square ball," Kelly said.

"You're trying to watch two things at once that are not in the same area of vision.

"But my view -- and obviously I'm speaking to listeners in a county that would feel very hard done by in recent months, and indeed the last couple of years -- is that I still don't think you can eradicate mistakes.

"There's not a player on the Kildare team who didn't make a mistake. There's not a player on any team that doesn't make mistakes. Umpires make mistakes too and referees make mistakes. There will always be mistakes because we're not robots.

"In the GAA we're very slow to embrace change. There have been some very good proposals tried in the National League and then dispensed with quite quickly at Congress.

"Technology has been used at Wimbledon, in cricket and rugby, and you couldn't say it has adversely affected any game, but maybe we could make rule changes first which could eliminate or alleviate any of the problems.

"I accept it hasn't been the greatest year in terms of GAA officiating as we've all made mistakes.

"But it comes with the territory. Human error will come into it. I can't see any way around that. We can perhaps minimise it."

Down's Benny Coulter was given a goal against Kildare in last year's All-Ireland semi-final that looked like a clear square ball offence.

But the Lilywhites benefited themselves earlier this summer when Meath's Graham Geraghty had a legitimate goal against them disallowed on the same contentious rule.

A spate of controversies over scores this summer has increased calls for the GAA to introduced technology to help their match officials.

The association commissioned the Hawk-Eye company to do a study of how it could be applied to their games but it looks unlikely to be used now because of the costs, estimated to be €500,000.

Irish Independent

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