IT'S TIME for GAA referees to start reciprocating on the respect front, according to Armagh footballer Ciaran McKeever, who yesterday accused most of them of treating players like "schoolboys in a playground."
"You can crack a joke with some referees on the field, but the majority of them are non-negotiable," said McKeever, who will line out for Armagh against Tyrone in the Ulster championship on Sunday.
"They feel that when a player is talking to them, they are speaking down to them, but, then, when you ask them what a free is for, they have the authority to speak to you like a schoolboy in a playground."
The teak-tough Armagh centre-back, vice-captain of Ireland in last year's International Rules series, said GAA referees should take a leaf out of the other sports books.
"If you ask a referee in other sports why he has awarded a free or a penalty, he'll explain it to you, as opposed to telling you to shut up and get on with the game.
"Why should a referee have the right to say that to a player?"
McKeever also has issues about consistency from the men in black. "What is a free on Sunday mightn't be a free in a different match," he added.
"Some boys are trying to con free-kicks and buy free-kicks all day long. It's hard for a defender. Forwards always get the breaks. If you're a forward, you can get away with 10 fouls in a match and not get booked whereas, if a defender makes one foul, he's living on the edge for the rest of the game," he added.
The Armagh star questioned why the GAA's disciplinary panels have the authority to question absolutely everything except the referees' performance.
"At the end of the day, they can't call (question) a decision that a referee makes during a match. They can't reprimand them or make them stand up and be counted for what they did wrong."
An Armagh regular since 2003, McKeever has been involved in some high-profile dismissals during his career, but pointed out that most of them were rescinded on television evidence.
"I've been playing senior club football for 15 years and have never been sent off. With Armagh, I think I've been sent off twice, maybe, that I deserved. On several other occasions when I was sent off, the decision was rescinded.
"I feel that I'm in the referee's book before I go out to play," he claimed. "When the referee gives you a yellow card for something you didn't do, it's hard to stomach, but that's life."
McKeever was also in the news earlier this year when Armagh's management complained that he had been the subject of sectarian abuse from an opponent during their Allianz League clash with Laois, but he refused to be drawn on the incident yesterday.
"It's something I don't want to comment on. It was very badly handled. There was a lot of stuff in the press, but nobody knew what happened," he said.
"As far as I'm concerned, what happens on the field stays on it and I never came crying over what happened. It was just something this past seven or 10 years from the same individual. There's no point coming crying about it now."