Ladies take lead as 'Ref-Cam' lined up to bolster coverage
YOU'VE seen Hawk-Eye in action, now meet 'Ref-Cam'.
The Ladies' Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) is putting live television cameras on its referees this summer, starting with one of their All-Ireland qualifiers on July 27.
The tiny Ref-Cams weigh just 100 grams. They will be strapped onto the referee's head and he/she will wear a Neoprene vest which contains the transmitter and power pack, weighing just 1.1kg in total.
It will give television editors another angle to use in live games and is expected to be particularly revealing in situations such as penalties and slow-motion replays.
If the same technology had existed in last Sunday's Munster final, it would have clarified exactly what referee James McGrath saw when he sent off Cork's Patrick Horgan.
And another of the women's football innovations – a countdown clock and buzzer, operated by the fourth official – would have verified whether James Owen was right to blow 'time' when Kilkenny's Matthew Ruth looked to have scored the winner at the end of proper time against Waterford in Thurles on Saturday night.
The LGFA, which also uses a sin-bin, is particularly innovative and one of their top referees, Keith Delahunty, says there is no reason why the men's game cannot follow their lead.
"You have to have sympathy for them (hurling referees)," he said.
"I referee a lot of hurling matches in Tipperary and the speed of hurling is phenomenal. It's gone so fast that you can seldom go inside the '45' any more because the ball can come out so quickly.
"There's no reason why the clock can't come in to men's football. It is superb and takes so much pressure off us."
He said Ref-Cam will be much more than a visual gimmick and will be useful for training match officials.
"It will help to upgrade the standard of refereeing and hopefully will also be a tool for managers as well. It's a big step forward," Delahunty said.
"It will also help clarify decisions that referees make because it can show exactly what they've seen."
The technology, made by an Australian company called Globecam, is being introduced by TG4, who are also sponsors of the women's football championships.
It is the same technology that is being used in Super 15 rugby, as well as in Australian Rules and cricket Down Under.
One difference is that the LGFA is initially only piloting the live visual content and not the sound, saying it wants to trial it for a year before adding the audio content.
TG4 also have the rights for the GAA's Allianz Leagues but cannot introduce Ref-Cam there unless it is approved by Congress.
There have already been some seismic results in the women's senior championships this summer, with Kerry beating All-Ireland champions Cork (for the second time this year) in last weekend's Munster final and Galway retaining their Connacht title at Mayo's expense.
The first round of the qualifiers was drawn yesterday. Armagh and Laois got byes, while Westmeath were pitted against Donegal and Clare against Kildare on July 27.
Ref-Cam will debut in one of those two games.