Saturday 16 December 2017

Comment: The myths and contradictions surrounding Hawk-Eye and ladies football

Decision not to use Hawk-Eye undermines fight for parity

Dublin’s Carla Rowe shoots for a point which was incorrectly given as a wide during Sunday’s ladies football All-Ireland final Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin’s Carla Rowe shoots for a point which was incorrectly given as a wide during Sunday’s ladies football All-Ireland final Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Dublin's ladies will not appeal the result of Sunday's TG4 All-Ireland senior football final, despite having a legitimate score disallowed in the game they lost to Cork by just one point.

The Ladies Gaelic Football Association's (LGFA) decision not to use Hawk-Eye technology on their All-Ireland day meant that there was no technology available to verify that match officials got it wrong when ruling a Carla Rowe point wide after 22 minutes.

Dublin were furious about the error and, in the immediate aftermath, indicated that they might appeal the result.

But, after a meeting between their management and board officials yesterday morning, they issued a statement congratulating Cork on their victory while stressing their energies will now be concentrated on ensuring that others will not suffer the same fate.

"We wish it to be noted that we are very disappointed that the score error could not be rectified on the field of play and we will focus our efforts to require that LGFA put processes in place so that no other team is subjected to such a situation," they said.

The unfortunate incident not only overshadowed Cork's 11th title but highlighted an anomaly that needs to be urgently addressed if there is to be real on-pitch parity for elite women's players in all codes.

Why was Hawk-Eye not in use?

The LGFA's Central Council rejected a proposal to use it this year because the technology is only available in two venues nationally, arguing this would, metaphorically, un-level playing pitches.

But the GAA and Camogie Association both use it - despite it only operating in Croke Park and Thurles - on the basis that the most important games of the year take place in these two venues.

It has been suggested that the time needed to recalibrate Hawk-Eye for a smaller ball, and the cost of implementing it, were two additional factors, but the LGFA refuted that.

The time element in re-calibration is not a problem because the Camogie Association also has to recalibrate it for their smaller, lighter sliothar. Camogie passed a motion at their 2015 Congress to use Hawk-Eye and had it in operation for their last two All-Ireland final days plus this year's semi-finals in Thurles.

There is no official confirmation of the cost of using Hawk-Eye but it is believed to be €6,000-€10,000, which should not be prohibitive.

Why should it be in use for ladies football?

Elite women's players are now putting in as much training as elite men, and that commitment and effort deserves the best possible officiating. If computer technology can correct human error for score verification then all top players deserve its benefits.

Ladies football has been laudably proactive in using technology like countdown clocks and referee-cams but Hawk-Eye is arguably far more important, given how close the winning margins have been recently.

Two of last Sunday's three finals were decided by a point. Three of Cork's last four senior titles (2013, 2014, 2016) have been won by a single point and the other, in 2015, by just two points.

The LGFA benefited from a lucrative new €1.5m sponsorship from Lidl this year which partly funded a major advertising campaign to increase their players' profile.

Its motto was #serioussupport but Dublin argue that not using Hawk-Eye last Sunday contradicted that notion.

Would Hawk-Eye have changed the result of Sunday's final?

Very unlikely. Dublin had nearly 60pc of the first-half possession but only led 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time after shooting six 'real' wides and dropping five more shots short. With 13 wides in total they had lots of chances to make up for the error themselves but wasted too many.

Cork kept them to just one point from play in the second half and were four points clear when Dublin got the last-minute penalty that left just a point between them. The final score-line (1-7 to 1-6) did not really reflect Cork's second-half dominance.

Hawk-Eye was not actually needed to correct Sunday's error. The shot was relatively low over the post and the umpires and referee should have had no problem in making the right call between them. This was a straight case of human error that could have been corrected without Hawk-Eye.

But that doesn't change the principle. Elite players, irrespective of gender, deserve the best officiating possible and equal access to any technology that helps to eradicate errors.

Three sets of elite players (hurlers, footballers and camogie players) benefitted from Hawk-Eye in their 2016 championships but ladies' footballers didn't. That is clearly not equitable and must change.

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Irish Independent

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