GAA referees chief Seán Walsh expects officials to treat all players the same regardless of their size, writes John Fogarty.
Donegal, Mayo and Kerry managers have all recently complained that some of their six foot plus men have been treated unfairly by match officials. Éamonn Fitzmaurice became the latest to hit out at standards following the Division 1 final defeat to Dublin in which he felt Kieran Donaghy was fouled without punishment.
His comments come after Donegal boss Rory Gallagher and former Mayo co-manager Noel Connelly pleaded the cases of Michael Murphy and Aidan O’Shea, respectively, last season.
National Referees Development chairman Walsh said his match officials have received no directive about such comments. However, he would like to believe all of the 18-man football championship panel of referees judge players in the same light.
“We earnestly hope every referee that goes out to referee a match treats every player equally no matter of size. That goes without exception. Obviously, we have seen the debate in the media but we don’t contribute to that. We analyse games on a rational basis every time. Whether it’s big men or small men, we don’t get into that debate.”
Walsh feels it’s in referees’ best interests to make clear their decisions to players but only if they are asked. “We find that the referees who are communicating get on better and I would be in favour of a referee giving a quick explanation to a player if he is asked. Constant chit-chatter is not good for a number of reasons but explaining often helps to cool down situations. We would encourage it.”
Ahead of the championship, referees have not been told to be on the look-out for any particular fouls. Since the start of the year, the emphasis at seminars has been on ensuring referees see things the same way.
“The biggest thing we’re looking for is consistency from game to game from all our referees. If the rules are applied, we will get to a level of consistency and then players know what they’re being blown up for on a regular basis rather than one referee blowing for it and another not.”
As regards the possibility of referees being mic’ed up as David Coldrick was in last year’s All-Ireland SFC final for an RTÉ documentary, Walsh said the facilities are there to make it happen in inter-county games.
“Every ref is mic-ed up to his linesmen. This year we put a system in place where all counties received radios with the help of the provincial councils and Croke Park. In relation to the audio last year, all audio between match officials in Croke Park is recorded because it is required for HawkEye.”
The broadcasted footage gave great insight into Coldrick’s duties although the GPA, while welcoming the initiative, were alarmed that players had not been aware it would be broadcast.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner