Umpires face new test as GAA look to lift standards
IN A desperate bid to avoid a repeat of the 'Sluddengate' controversy that marred last year's Leinster football final, the GAA's 'Men in White' will have to pass a new test before they can preside over senior inter-county championship matches this summer.
Several instances of incorrect decisions on championship scores put umpires firmly under the microscope last summer, most notoriously in the Leinster final, where the umpires appeared to dither and referee Martin Sludden appeared not to consult with them on whether Joe Sheridan's late decisive goal for Meath was legal.
The GAA is expected to trial Hawk-Eye score detection technology in the coming weeks -- though not, as rumoured, in this weekend's Dublin v Mayo game.
But director general Paraic Duffy revealed yesterday that they are insisting that all umpires who want to do inter-county games will have to have a new certification.
"We have systems in place to govern the training, performance, monitoring and appointment of referees; yet, where umpires are concerned, we exercise little control," he admitted.
Duffy said the referees' body "is taking steps to raise the standards of umpiring to the highest possible level" and said a test will be in place in time for this summer's championship.
While inter-county referees are appointed and vetted centrally, umpires have been independently selected by those referees and didn't face any kind of exam.
Louth have already submitted a motion to next month's Congress looking for "neutral linesmen and umpires from alternative counties other than that of the referee in charge of the match" to be appointed for senior inter-county games.
The GAA are also expected to ditch the umpires' traditional white coats for a more professional-looking outfit before this summer's championships.