Monday 21 October 2019

VAR has given us all 20/20 vision

Seamus Darby (left) scores Offaly’s controversial last-minute winner in the 1982 All-Ireland final to crush Kerry’s five-in-a-row dream. Photo: Sportsfile
Seamus Darby (left) scores Offaly’s controversial last-minute winner in the 1982 All-Ireland final to crush Kerry’s five-in-a-row dream. Photo: Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The Russians, who love their spies, are all for it. Soon enough, say the naysayers, there will be no one left to hate, and no ref left to blame.

There will be no excuses, no injustices, no reflection. The age of the argument has been killed off by Var.

A view of the scoreboard during a VAR review after Iago Aspas had a goal initially ruled out for offside for Spain against Morocco in Kaliningrad
A view of the scoreboard during a VAR review after Iago Aspas had a goal initially ruled out for offside for Spain against Morocco in Kaliningrad

Those against claim VAR or Video Assistant Referee has had a catastrophic effect not only on the World Cup, but also on the fabric of society.

They claim the informer will be more feared than at any time since The Troubles. Var is Big Brother, they say. But everyone calls the recall technology Vars, because it's easier to say, which is why Mars is called Mars. Try asking for a Mar Bar in the shop. The saying of VAR twists the tongue. It's worse than trying to lick a 99 through a mouthful of cotton wool.

VARS, it seems, is being used by gardeners and sports clubs to catch out water stealers. The videoing by the glimmer men has caused the death of countless Sweet William, Petunia,and Begonia. Ornamental goldfish are being fried as whitebait and the weeping willows shed all their tears. The playing fields are as white as an old man's beard and soon enough the Forty Foot will be the Twenty-nine Foot. FIFA has created a terrible monster.

It's the end of Hawk-Eye, and all the money spent on the goal-line technology. Ah, but Tom Semple's field was a green baize (mostly) yesterday for the Munster Final. I can see neighbouring clubs fighting water wars over the damming of streams.

The sand-based pitches are a godsend in the wet but the sports clubs are all watching each other with mobile VARS, known as phones.

One groundsman from a club near here said: ''Twould be easier grow cabbage in Saudi Arabia than to put a blade of grass in our parallelogram."

We were sent on a mission to find out. Some of the famed Bective Rangers teams, who have been retired since the ball was a bladder, took a bus tour to the incredibly beautiful Conor Pass side of the Dingle Peninsula on Saturday morning last.


The bar person in the first coffee house asked us if we were a bingo bus?

We met up with The Man Who Knows Everything who was out on a field trip to Murphy's excellent pub in Brandon, and he poured forth in the blazing sun.

"The very name Var could be the handle for an unforgiving god like Thor. Vars has the ring of a pandemic disease caused by close proximity to apes or a dose of some sort of bird flu."

And on he went. "Vars has already finished off the debate in the pubs," said The Man Who Knows Everything, as he wiped away a bucket of sweat from his brow with a window cleaner's squeegee.

The Man Who Knows Everything was downcast. "Television was bad enough, Google was worse, but no one will be able to open their mouth for fear of being caught out with that cursed Vars."

Famed Tralee optician Roger Harty does a very effective ad on Radio Kerry that goes, "if you can't see me, you need to see me." Roger says business has boomed since the World Cup.

So many of us are so certain of what we see or perceive to have seen. But then Vars proves us wrong.

But Vars might right wrongs. There was the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. Well, what about the Kingdom Fifteen? If we had Vars back in AE2 , Kerry might have won the five-in-a-row and we wouldn't living in dread of Dublin passing us out.

Offaly think we should be over it by now. That famous goal scored by our good friend Seamus Darby occurred in AE2 or '82 which is only the bare 36 years ago. It's too soon. There are families here in North Kerry who haven't spoken a word to each other since a wandering ass broke into a garden of turnips in the dry summer of 1823.

VAR just has to be good for the game. Think Thierry Henry and the injustice of the Paris handball in 2009. There are delays but sure doesn't one fit of simulated rolling around take just as long. VAR should also be used to catch out the divers.

The world spins, the full moons move tides and our brains are 77pc water. There will still be dizzy spells and mistakes. Twenty thousand saw a statue move in Ballinaspittle. There is no safety in numbers.

Gerard Pique should have been given a red card against Morocco. There were corners when attackers were rugby-tackled in the box. Our brief this week was Var but I just have to say goodbye to Mayo. Kildare were mighty and deserved to win.

They were right to fight for home venue. There was no need of Var. Referee David Gough was fair but how many All-Irelands would Mayo have won had there been a VAR? One at least. Maybe two.

And one more quick point on GAA. I believe GAA director of communications Alan Milton when he says the GAA were not motivated by money when they switched the game to Croke Park, because he is Alan Milton.


Alan is one of the good guys. He was the one who had to take the flak even though he didn't make the decision.

Meanwhile, back on tour, by way of breaking the ice, I ask the man covered in paint who was drinking a pint in Fitzgerald's in Castlegregory if he was "doing a bit of painting?"

"No," replied Sean Courtney, or 'Chopper' as he is known as in Castle, "I'm cleaning a chimney."

I let the sarcasm go because I was afraid Chopper might cut me down to size a second time. "I don't watch the soccer. I have no interest in Vars," he said. "Give me a good game of rugby football or hurling any time."

But Chopper it's the best footballing World Cup since Brazil won in 1970. A man told me lately he was after falling in love with his own wife. There is love after love. The swerving, dipping kick we used to call the banana is back in bunches. This World Cup has had so many long-distance, top-corner wonder goals.

There will still be memories, real and imagined, of magic impressionism, moments you can never separate from the bare facts.

Irish Independent

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