If not Hawk-Eye, at least use referees as umpires to reduce risk of controversies

If not Hawk-Eye, at least use referees as umpires to reduce risk of controversies
25 September 2016; A dejected Carla Rowe of Dublin after the Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final match between Cork and Dublin at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It’s 2016 and therefore laughable that Carla Rowe’s name is not on the scoresheet from the All-Ireland Senior Ladies’ Football final on Sunday, writes Peter McNamara.

First of all, a disclaimer: I do not follow ladies’ football regularly.

Like so many others tuned into TG4 I was one of the proverbial blow-ins watching Cork earn a sixth All-Ireland senior title in a row.

A new manager in a new season but the same seasonal outcome as the previous five. Remarkable, really.

‘Transition period’? What transition period? The wheels just keep on turning.

Ephie Fitzgerald admitted himself that when you are dealing with players with the “absolute focus” of those Leesiders your job is half-complete before you even begin.

Fitzgerald has hinted at creating his own dynasty of success with this group, too.

Yet, one can foresee the Nemo Rangers man just as easily presiding over the Cork senior men’s team in the not-too-distant future.

That discussion, however, is for another day.

And today? Well, today is all about evaluating why Rowe’s name is not on that scoresheet.

‘Dublin players, management and executive congratulate Cork on winning the 2016 senior All-Ireland final.

‘We wish it to be noted that we are very disappointed that the score error could not be rectified on the field of play and we will focus our efforts to require that LGFA put processes in place so that no other team is subjected to such a situation.

‘Dublin LGFA will be making no further comment on this issue,’ a statement read on the Dublin Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association website on Monday afternoon.

Written, we proffer, through gritted teeth.

“We all knew Hawk-Eye wasn’t available – that’s been the case all year,” Fitzgerald told Neil Prendeville on Cork’s RedFM Monday morning. “You know going out that you’re not going to have the use of Hawk-Eye. So talking about Hawk-Eye should be in use afterwards, to me, is a bit rich.

“I was fully aware that Hawk-Eye wasn’t going to be in use, so the fact that they should or shouldn’t use it is down to the powers that be, it’s irrelevant to us.”

Fitzgerald, and understandably so, is clearly hinting here at the fact his Dublin counterpart, Gregory McGonigle should have been aware Hawk-Eye was not in use on the occasion in question.

Gregory McGonigle was furious after the match.
Gregory McGonigle was furious after the match.

That’s a valid point.

However, a lot of people at that stage were getting bogged down on details.

The basic issue here is the one everybody should be considering solutions too: Why, in this day and age, are we still spending our Sunday evenings and Monday mornings fixated with avoidable PR disasters in our Gaelic games?

Eoghan Cormican of the Irish Examiner and Rory Noonan of the Evening Echo, regulars at both men’s and women’s Gaelic games matches, spoke particularly well on this topic on the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast.

“People around the country aren’t talking about the game this morning,” Noonan stated. “They’re talking about an incident in the game.

“As Eoghan has said too, that’s not doing the game any good.

“What you would love is for those people to be talking about is the defending by Cork, defending by Dublin, the way Cork’s goal was engineered and scored and the intensity of the match.

“This one incident is what a lot of people are talking about and so that is not good publicity in my opinion.”

We’ve all been here before though, in unnecessary situations such as these. Who can forget Joe Sheridan’s ‘goal’ against Louth in the Leinster SFC final of 2010?

When it comes to provincial and All-Ireland finals in both men’s and women’s codes, referees should be utilised as umpires on those days.

This idea of a referee being allowed to select his own team of umpires should be a thing of the past at the highest levels for finals.

There’s too much blood, sweat and tears poured in by the players away from the big days and the TV cameras for risk-aversion to not be a priority.

The greater experience of referees in these pressure-cooker situations would lend itself to a lower percentage chance of mistakes being made.

That’s not to dismiss the importance of umpires and the voluntary work that they do in carrying out such duties.

Yet, these matches are simply too important to not have a team of officials with bucket loads of experience and know-how available to the referee on the day.

Of course, we are all human and even referees acting as umpires could also make an error or errors.

Nevertheless, mistakes would be surely less likely to happen.

And not to avoid the obvious, the technology is already in place.

The Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association probably appreciate already that ruling out the use of Hawk-Eye earlier in the year was an error in collective judgment.

Still, what good is that to Dublin now? Also, a degree of gloss was taken off of the Rebels’ triumph in the circumstances.

In saying that, McGonigle’s team’s profligacy was a huge factor in deciding the outcome of the encounter.

And possibly even more than the score that should have been awarded to Rowe and her team-mates did.

All the same, there is no excuse for Rowe’s shot at goal to not have counted as a score.

It’s not 1996. It’s 2016.

With the technology available to the personnel involved you cannot defend the LGFA for not availing of Hawk-Eye either.

Granted, cost would most likely have been a major part of their reasoning for not implementing Hawk-Eye when the original decision was being made.

However, the players deserve far better, especially when there is greater finances through sponsorship available to the powers that be nowadays.

Furthermore, you would assume Hawk-Eye will be utilised at headquarters next year when the ladies’ football finals return to Jones’s Road.

Additionally, and this goes for each of the Gaelic games associations, referees need to be manning the posts on the days when silverware is dished out.

After all, the hierarchies need to do all they can to avoid another incident such as last Sunday’s.

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