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'It's one of those classic GAA solutions to a classic GAA problem' - Refs under pressure after League opening


David Clifford's red card against Tyrone has been hotly debated. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

David Clifford's red card against Tyrone has been hotly debated. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile


David Clifford's red card against Tyrone has been hotly debated. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Calls for more responsibility on game-changing decisions to be laid on umpires and linesmen have been made after David Clifford’s controversial sending off during Sunday’s clash between Tyrone and Kerry.

The need to review how games are refereed was discussed by Will Slattery, Donnchadh Boyle and Ciaran Whelan on this week’s episode of The Throw-In, Independent.ie's GAA podcast in association with Allianz, with Boyle suggesting that umpires and linesmen should be more accountable when bad decisions are made.

"It is one of those classic GAA solutions to a classic GAA problem - you see two fellas tussling and you just assume that both people are equally as guilty and you dish out two yellows," he said.

"At club level you accept that sort of stuff, but you expect at county level, for everyone involved - referees, umpires, linesmen - to be more sophisticated, to have seen all these sort of tricks before and to call it for what it was.

"Any of the footage I saw showed that, essentially, Clifford was wrestled to the ground, he did very, very little. People will say that the referee should have done better, but I would look at his umpires and his linesmen there because the referee was taking care of business, dishing out black cards maybe 20 metres away at the time. He gets no help from the people he brought with him."

The young Kerry star had racked up a tally of six points in the unfamiliar venue of Pairc Arthur Mallon on Sunday afternoon, but the decision to hand him a second yellow card in the second half arguably killed off the Kingdom’s chances as Tyrone edged the game 0-14 to 0-13. And former Dublin midfielder Whelan believes the incident has put a spotlight on how football games are officiated.

"You’d like to see a more common-sense approach. They should look at incidents and ask 'who actually caused this incident?'. Fergal Kelly should have gone to his umpire and asked 'did Clifford start this?', because it was quite clear that Clifford was lying on the ground with his hands out.

"Sometimes key players get involved, they get embroiled and they retaliate, but Clifford certainly didn't do that. It was a terrible, terrible decision with no support from the umpires, and they have to be more accountable for key actions in a game that can result in a player getting sent off.

"I’d like to think that referees will get together this week and discuss this, look at it going forward and say 'guys, in situations like that, let's look at the context of the incident and see would it be the defender instigating this and if it is the defender, let's start punishing the defender', and instead of the cop-out of just saying it's handy here to give two yellow cards, (we should) have referees engaging properly and saying the instigator is the one that has to be punished."

Over the League campaign, doubts have also been raised over apparent inconsistencies in the amount of injury-time added in some fixtures, with some questioning the 10 minutes added at the end of Dublin’s clash with Monaghan, while Meath boss Andy McEntee vented his frustration at the referee not allocating more time in his side's match with Mayo.

But Ciaran Whelan believes that the high amount of time allocated in fixtures such as Dublin v Monaghan and Dublin v Kerry was justified.

"I certainly would be all for referees adding the extra time when there are injuries or cynical play in injury time. I would prefer to see teams get the opportunity when there is cynicism involved and people are trying to slow down the clock, so in Saturday's match it was probably warranted.

"But we are putting so much onus on referees, especially in those last few minutes where fellas are pulling and dragging out of everybody and trying to slow the whole thing down, and it results in additional cards. So maybe - it works in other sports, it worked in Ladies’ football - maybe the time factor could be taken out of the control of the referee."

Online Editors