Friday 15 December 2017

Rachel Wyse: Referees should be taken to task for bad calls

Cork's Patrick Horgan is shown a red card by referee James McGrath during the Munster SHC final against Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds
Cork's Patrick Horgan is shown a red card by referee James McGrath during the Munster SHC final against Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds

Rachel Wyse

We all make mistakes. Some go unnoticed, some we pay for heavily. Last Sunday in the Munster hurling final, Cork's free-taker and marquee forward Patrick Horgan made such a mistake.

The price he and his team paid was costly, too costly. In brandishing a red card to Horgan, referee James McGrath single-handedly turned Cork's very real provincial championship aspirations into nothing but flickers of hope.

And should Cork suffer defeat at the hands of Kilkenny tomorrow week, then its fair to say McGrath has had quite an impact on Cork's season.

In one moment, he has potentially transformed their year from being possible Munster champions and All-Ireland semi-finalists to beaten provincial finalists and beaten quarter-finalists.

I acknowledge there is a number of 'ifs' in such a permutation, but it remains a distinct possibility and that is most unfair.


Referee bashing is, of course, the easiest pastime in the world. the job is a thankless one and any individual who has the courage to referee any sport deserves respect.

Nevertheless, they cannot be immune from comment. James McGrath's performance last weekend is symptomatic of my issues with hurling referees. Lately, I believe they are making glaring errors which are having catastrophic effects.

Referees are becoming influential in deciding the the outcome of matches for the wrong reasons. Since hurling has been played, I know referees have been a bone of contention and debate will forever rage about frees awarded in the course of play. Marginal calls are a matter of opinion and open to human error.

I am not referring to such instances, rather I refer to standout incidents such as Horgan's sending off; the now-retired Ollie Canning having to be substituted in Galway's quarter-final game with Tipperary in 2010; the serious injures sustained to Michael Rice and TJ Reid in last year's hurling championship; the dubious free awarded to Galway's David Glennon ensuring a replay in last September's All-Ireland final; the errors made by referee James Owens in Semple Stadium last Saturday – a square-ball goal, blowing for full-time as the sliotar was heading goalwards and would Richie Power's goal have been allowed had the player not brought it to the officials' attention?

Most of these incidents have been glossed over because the outcome, in some of the cases, was eventually favourable to the team initially wronged. The referee's blushes were saved, but it doesn't make the problems any less serious. Potentially the consequences are horrific.

It's wrong. It makes a mockery of players who give so much time, commitment and make massive sacrifices to think their season may be brought to an unjust end by inadequate refereeing.

Players resemble professional athletes in their training schedules of 9-10 months and an amateur approach to ensuring application of the rules is an insult.

Players are the foundation on which the GAA is built, for they attract the crowds and provide so much enjoyment for us fans. Frankly, they deserve better. As do team mentors and us supporters.

At great effort and cost we choose to support our county's best. We hope justice and fair play will be served by seeing the best team win rather than a game's outcome or players' welfare decided by incompetent refereeing.

The GAA should have the same outlook and it is their responsibility to ensure those they appoint to adjudicate over the Association's games are sufficiently competent to ensure no game is decided by a blatantly incorrect refereeing decision.

To get to that point, should they decide technology is the way forward, then so be it. Do whatever it takes. Recently Croke Park officials have been most proactive in initiating directives around crowd control and the number of mentors allowed on a touchline.

I hope they bring the same resolution when addressing the inadequacies among some of those refereeing their hurling games. It will serve us all well.

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