Saturday 18 November 2017

Dempsey looks to next generation of men in black

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE GAA has been urged to show more faith in younger referees who have inherited fewer bad habits, are more adaptable and react better to critical assessments.

Luke Dempsey, who has been on the inter-county managerial circuit for more than a decade with Westmeath, Longford and Carlow, believes that it's difficult to get older referees to change their habits, leading to frustration among players, managers and the public.

"Go with the younger breed. They have come into the game at a time when official assessments (by the GAA) are an accepted part of the system. It's easier to get some level of uniformity from a generation who are working off a recognised pattern.

"Some of the assessments can be ferocious but younger refs are prepared to live with that if it's going to make them better," he said.

Dempsey acknowledges that the standard of refereeing has improved substantially over the years and believes that despite the sharp criticisms being levelled at them, there will be no shortage of recruits in future years, provided they are guaranteed good training and support.

Meanwhile, retired referee John Bannon says that the forensic analysis of referring decisions in the media, particularly on TV, is making life much more difficult than used to be the case.

"Having said that, it's here to stay. The public like that sort of thing, it gets people talking and it's easy for television and the newspapers to do. I'm not criticising it but there's no doubt it's making life harder for referees," said Bannon.

The focus on referees has intensified after last weekend when the controversy quota increased as the All-Ireland football championship moved into knockout territory.

Longford referee Derek Fahy was lambasted by Louth players on Twitter after the game against Westmeath, while Michael Duffy (Sligo) was under attack from Derry manager John Brennan after the defeat by Longford

London manager Paul Coggins questioned why the GAA had appointed an Armagh referee (Padraig Hughes) to referee the Antrim-London qualifier.

Dempsey was critical of Syl Doyle (Wexford), claiming he allowed too much pulling and dragging by Laois players in the qualifier tie with Carlow.

"Yes, I was unhappy with some of his refereeing but I also went on to say that Laois deserved to win," he said.

Bannon, who refereed the 1998 and 2002 All-Ireland finals, said that managers' criticisms of referees were now being reported in the media as part of the routine.

"Even if a manager hasn't mentioned the referee in the post-match interview, he's asked about him. That's the world we live in. You'll find too that the higher the stakes, the more referees are criticised. Last weekend brought the first real knockout days in the football championship and, with them, came added criticism from losing teams. There's probably a lot more to come."

He said he was surprised by comments from Brennan following the last-minute incident in which Derry had a goal disallowed against Longford.

"He said it should have been a goal or a penalty. What about a free out, which was Michael Duffy's decision? Just because a manager argues a point doesn't make it right. Managers see things their way, which is understandable, but referees have to see them from a totally neutral perspective," said Bannon.

Dempsey believes that while there has been an increase in the amount of criticism referees take, the standard has improved considerably over the years.

"The cynicism, the late tackles, the hard man element is largely gone and good riddance.

"In fairness, the GAA has made good progress but they now need to take it a stage further and go with the younger referees, men who are quick and decisive and not afraid to make the hard decisions.

"I'd also feel they need to take the personality of the referee into consideration. Some people shouldn't be refereeing because they don't have the personality or the temperament for it. It doesn't matter how good they are on the rules -- they also need to be able to deal with players on a personal level," he said.

Irish Independent

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