Sport The Throw In

Thursday 22 August 2019

'How the hell can one man do it?' - Is it time for two referees in hurling?

Jake Morris of Tipperary scores a goal past Mark Fanning of Wexford, which was subsequently disallowed
Jake Morris of Tipperary scores a goal past Mark Fanning of Wexford, which was subsequently disallowed

Tony Considine

While the standard of play and entertainment value that the weekend's All-Ireland hurling semi-finals provided has rightly been lauded, the quality of the officiating has been the elephant in the room.

Both games featured a number of contentious decisions from the failure to award Limerick a potentially equalising 65 with the last puck of the ball on Saturday to the decision to award Tipperary a free in just after Jake Morris had lashed the sliotar to the net.

Although one of those was possibly result-altering and the other ended up irrelevant, it has sparked debate among fans, pundits and journalists as to how best to avoid such scenarios.

With VAR on the verge of being introduced into the Premier League, a year after most Europen leagues embraced it, some, including Michael Verney in these pages yesterday, have advocated its introduction into top level GAA.

But Verney's suggestions have been immediately shot down by Irish Independent GAA correspondent Martin Breheny, who suggested a different approach on this week's The Throw-In, Independent.ie's GAA podcast in association with Bord Gais Energy.

"It is absolutely impossible for any ref to referee a hurling game. You're covering three acres of ground," Breheny said.

"Think about it, three acres on a day like Sunday. The ball is moving at such a pace, how the hell can one man do it?

"There's a clear case for having two referees. They're talking about VAR and I can't see how VAR will work whatsoever. I was hoping Michael Verney would be here because I want to take this up with him.

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"Where does VAR stop and finish? You can ask was it a foul inside the square but even that won't be clear-cut with VAR. What about all the hand-passing on the way up with the ball being thrown.

"You can say that's just the game but it's not. Every single game there's rules being broken a dozen or more times. VAR won't solve that. If you brought it in would you be able to say 'Let's go back and have a look at the hand-pass'?

"It's different in rugby because it's a slower moving game with set-pieces etc. Even then they can go back to the 22 if it's a forward pass or whatever. In hurling VAR simply won't work.

"So what you do is have two referees and see does having them closer to the action improve it. That, in my view would be a far better suggestion."

Breheny found an ally in Brendan Cummins, who was also on The Throw-In panel, although the ex-Tipperary goalkeeper and Sunday Game pundit noted one reason why he can't see central Council making the required rule change.

"I don't think that VAR works. I think two referees is the way forward," Cummins added.

"But then the ethos of the GAA starts at grassroots. So if there's one rule in Croke Park, we suddenly have a separation to the rules down in the clubs. I'm not so sure we're ready to make that leap within the GAA yet.

"And I can't see a Junior B match next Friday night in Tipp where they're trying to gather two refs when it's hard enough to get one. That's going to be the thing."

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