Sport Hurling

Sunday 18 March 2018

Is it wrong to use Hawk-Eye given that it's available only in Croke Park?

Martin Breheny and Donnchadh Boyle debate the rights and wrongs of selective use of the new goal-line technology. Have your say in the poll and the comments

A 'miss' is displayed on the big screen following a decision made as a result of the Hawk-Eye cameras being used for the first time at a game in Croke Park during the Offaly v Kildare match earlier this month
A 'miss' is displayed on the big screen following a decision made as a result of the Hawk-Eye cameras being used for the first time at a game in Croke Park during the Offaly v Kildare match earlier this month

MARTIN BREHENY SAYS YES: Imagine if it was proposed that, by way of added assistance to match officials, an extra observer would keep a beady eye on proceedings from the stand and notify the referee if he spotted something untoward that had gone undetected on the pitch.

At the very least, it would lead to a vigorous debate. Now, imagine if the proposal stipulated that the 'eye in the stand' would apply to Croke Park only and that the usual service would apply at all other venues. It would be shot down in about 90 seconds by Congress.

Yet, the same delegates who would have vetoed that proposal happily supported the use of Hawk-Eye at this year's championship games in Croke Park, while the naked eye continues to rule elsewhere. Quite simply, they introduced a rule which sees the championship run under different rules, depending on the venue.

More specifically, they made it official GAA policy to bring guaranteed precision to score-detection to Croke Park only. The logic for this decision was based on the supposed requirement to see how Hawk-Eye worked out in Croke Park over two seasons before deciding whether to end the experiment or extend the technology countrywide.

Finance is likely to become an issue at that stage, since old Hawk-Eye won't come cheaply if asked to spread his wings to 32 county grounds.

Whatever the future holds, the present is faced with a glaring contradiction where score-detection technology applies in Croke Park only. One of the key principles of competition is that the same rules apply from start to finish.

The GAA has always held that as sacred – indeed, there have been occasions when the introduction of even minor rule adjustments had to be put back for a year because they couldn't come into force until a month after Congress, by which stage a few games had been played in the senior championships. However small the changes might have been, the GAA insisted that the championships could not be run under different rules.

Enter Hawk-Eye, exit the established principle of same competition, same rules. Nothing is more fundamental to hurling and football than point-scoring, yet the GAA is now happy to operate two sets of rules to decide on whether the ball has passed outside or inside the post.

The case has been put forward that if technology can eradicate score-detection errors then it would be illogical not to deploy it. However, that's altogether different from using technology selectively at one venue only, even if it is Croke Park.

For a start, it leaves the many counties who won't get to play in Croke Park relying on a score-detection method which the GAA authorities accept is unreliable. Do those counties not have the same rights as the lucky ones who frequent Croke Park?

If Hawk-Eye is so dependable, why the need to experiment with it over two years? If the GAA are happy that it works well, they should have moved on to deciding whether it's feasible to install it all grounds. Instead, they have chosen to run the All-Ireland championships under different rules. Just because Congress voted to ignore a fundamental principle of equality and fairness doesn't make it right.



IT'S a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't. Ignore the obvious benefits of Hawk-Eye and Croke Park would have been accused of shirking technology in the digital age.

Had they rolled it out across the board, they'd have been using the association's resources frivolously.

It wasn't a decision taken lightly by authorities as they explored other avenues – remember the ball-catcher nets that were trialled down in Scariff? But accepting it on a two-year trial basis in HQ was the most logical step the GAA could have taken.

The GAA has been very private about the costs associated with Hawk-Eye, but a figure of €500,000 per annum to maintain the technology at every championship venue in the country was rumoured.

Over a 10-year period that would amount to some €5m which, otherwise, would likely have gone to funding a host of other projects around the country. At that price, a roll-out of Hawk-Eye at every GAA ground just isn't feasible.

Remember this is the same association who baulked at a one-off outlay of €250,000 to install clocks at venues around the country. That comes on top of the already significant investment that has gone into Hawk-Eye.

The technology did, of course, already exist, but the software had to be adapted specifically for Gaelic games. Some of the cost of this has been clawed back thanks to a sponsorship deal with Specsavers.

If the technology was installed countrywide, you'd need qualified people to operate it.

As it stands, Willie Barrett and Dickie Murphy share duties for hurling matches, while Pat McEnaney and Noel O'Donoghue cover the football, but many more bodies would be needed to cope with the volume of games.

It's true there's a rule that championship games should be played under exactly the same circumstances. But that rule wasn't intended to prevent a game being played under the best possible conditions.

And, in any case, games at a variety of levels in the GAA are regularly played under different circumstances.

For example, some games are recorded by TV cameras and others aren't, something that can be vitally important, particularly in matters of discipline.

In different grounds, the height of the posts may vary greatly. The width and length of playing surfaces can also differ. Club matches can also be played with or without neutral umpires and linesmen.

So, to invoke the 'same circumstances' rule when making a case against Hawk-Eye would suggest that while club games can be played in various circumstances, county matches can't.

Hawk-Eye's introduction to Croke Park is a good thing. Ensuring that the GAA's biggest days are played in the best possible conditions is a positive step and was the only one the GAA could have taken.

Irish Independent

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