Tuesday 10 December 2019

Costs mean Hawk-Eye will not fly outside Croke Park

The scoreboard shows Hawkeye's assessment of John O'Dwyer's late free for Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
The scoreboard shows Hawkeye's assessment of John O'Dwyer's late free for Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Cliona Foley

Last Sunday's crucial interventions by Hawk-Eye illustrated the value of the technology in Gaelic Games but that may still not be enough to persuade the GAA to extend it beyond Croke Park.

It was the first time the score-verification technology was used three times in one game and each decision related to a shot into the Canal End.

Yet Hawk-Eye's high-profile success in such a frenetic All-Ireland senior final, that involved 54 scores, still does not ensure that it will be rolled out in other GAA stadia because the high cost of installing it is regarded as a major sticking point.

Insiders say that the costs involved (reportedly €200,000) would have to come out of other budgets like games development, and justifying that, on a cost-per-game basis, in venues which are not used as often as Croke Park, is the big problem.

Hawk-Eye was introduced at the start of the 2013 Leinster SFC and while figures are not yet available for this year, it was used 20 times, in 31 games, last year and noticeably called upon more often in hurling. In 2013, it was used 10 times in 20 football games and 10 times in 11 hurling matches.

However, it came under serious fire when it made a blatant mistake in one of last year's All-Ireland minor hurling semi-finals. It misread a sliotar as a football because it had not been properly adjusted by Hawk-Eye technicians and thus disallowed a legitimate Limerick point in a game which they eventually lost in extra-time.

Yet the technology's value was underlined last Sunday. It was first used 38 seconds after throw-in to decide that Colin Fennelly's opening point was a good one and again in the 23rd minute to rule a Conor Fogarty shot wide but its most important application came when it verified that John O'Dwyer's last-minute free was wide.

"Hawk-Eye definitely proved its worth. That last free was from 100 yards and the ball was travelling at huge speed," said GAA head of media relations Alan Milton.

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"The magnitude of the calls that it made - particularly the last one - vindicated the decision to install it.

"Hawk-Eye came in for a lot of unfair criticism over one incident last year," he added.

"That was not a technological problem, that was purely human error, and we have always been confident in the technology."

The GAA were so furious about that error in calibration that they called in Hawk-Eye's top executives and stipulated that officials from its British company must travel over to supervise its use in every game since, as they did last weekend. The GAA is officially coming to the end of its two-year 'experiment' with Hawk-Eye and will review its use this winter.

The argument for extending it to other stadia was strongly made back in May, coincidentally in another game involving Kilkenny and Tipperary: the Division 1 Allianz League final.

Debate

There was a debate about two scores in Thurles that day and both decisions (without Hawk-Eye) went against Tipp.

Kilkenny's Colin Fennelly was awarded an early point which looked wide, while Tipperary's Noel McGrath had a point disallowed in the 79th minute that looked inside the post.

The GAA has a sponsor (Specsavers) which is believed to cover a lot of its running costs but the initial technology and installation is reportedly very expensive, though the GAA will not say what it costs for "commercial reasons."

Referee Barry Kelly had clearly discussed its use with his match officials before last Sunday's final as the Westmeath officials's umpires were very quick to signal its use whenever they were unsure of a score.

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