Cooney 'very optimistic' about ending traditional pitch invasions

Cooney 'very optimistic' about ending traditional pitch invasions

The trophy presentations for this year's All-Ireland Senior Football and Hurling Championship finals are set to take place in the middle of the Croke Park pitch.

GAA president Christy Cooney has confirmed that plans are underway to make sure the pitchside presentations and team celebrations go ahead without a hitch.

"The focus is on the All-Ireland finals now, and we're going to make the presentations in the middle of the pitch," he explained.

"We're going to have ourselves organised to make sure we have no pitch invasions. I'm very optimistic we will put everything in place to make sure that happens, but we can't do that without the support of spectators.

"The last thing we want to do is put fencing up around Croke Park."

Cooney's comments come less than a fortnight after referee Martin Sludden was attacked by Louth supporters in the aftermath of Meath's controversial Leinster SFC final win.

Last year, the GAA attempted to hold the presentation of the Liam MacCarthy Cup on a platform in the centre of the pitch, but their plans were scuppered by a pitch invasion of jubilant Kilkenny fans, which saw them break through a cordon of stewards.

The presentation was moved to the Hogan Stand, where it has been traditionally held in recent times, and a planned fireworks display was also abandoned due to the thousands of people on the pitch.

Meanwhile, Cooney has expressed his opposition to the idea of introducing video technology, similar to that used in rugby union and cricket, to rule on questionable scores in Gaelic games.

Joe Sheridan's goal that was incorrectly awarded and gave Meath the Leinster title recently has reopened the debate over whether a video referee should be brought into football and hurling.

There have also been a couple of contentious scores awarded in high profile hurling matches this summer - point attempts by Galway's Ger Farragher and Cork forward Ben O'Connor resulted in white flags when television replays showed that there was some doubt about their validity.

The high stakes involved undoubtedly increase the pressure on referees and match umpires, but the GAA President feels that video technology is not required.

"I'm totally opposed to it. It's fine in rugby because it deals with whether a try takes place or not," said Cooney.

"Take last Saturday's Munster final replay in Thurles, there was 31 scores. If we stop every time for 31 scores, we'll have breaks in our play.

"That's not what our game is about. Our game is about continuity. Our game is about passion. Our game is about spills. It's a totally different game and I'm not in favour of it."

Despite criticism of how umpires are selected for top-level matches, with referees mostly appointing their own umpires, Cooney is confident that the ongoing work the Association is doing with match officials is cutting down on the number of mistakes.

"They are there because they are very good at what they do. The umpires are there with referees through National Leagues and through club games. They give of their time freely and are very well trained.

"By and large, our umpires have done an outstanding job. Of course we need to review what happens when mistakes are made, but I can guarantee a referee or umpire will be the first to know they have made a mistake.

"We constantly work with our umpires. We've had a training programme in place for the last three years with umpires, and with referees to ensure how they stand, where they stand, and that they make the right decisions.

"But they are human beings and they make mistakes. There have been a certain number of controversies, with opinions on points and penalties in the last few weeks, but that's not unique.

"Our umpires do a very good job, but they are capable of making a mistake like anybody else. Particularly in hurling it's harder. The ball is travelling so fast and it's more difficult. We will continue to support them," he added.

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