Refs’ balancing act becoming impossible

Michael Duignan’s plea could have served as an entreaty for all manner of frustrated parties.

“What difference is a few inches going to make?”

It might also work as a summary of our fine country’s attitude to any form of regulation. But it was, instead, uttered in sympathy with every hurler’s ineluctable need to dispatch a sideline cut from a marginally more advantageous position than the linesman has advised suitable. And Duignan is right. Why worry about the inches until the miles have been clocked?

There can scarcely have been a rule in the book not broken in Thurles last Sunday, often without penalty. Hurleys were held, hands were flicked, arms were pulled, backs were pushed, steps were taken in abundance. There was noticeable enthusiasm too for the fashionable means of ensuring progress by flailing a stick as if threshing a path through six-foot nettles.

All-in-all, the match produced precious little evidence for Brian Cody’s contention that physicality is set to be made extinct. And, the thing is, it was, in the overall scheme of Limerick-Tipp contests, a grand clean game, which flowed nicely with minimal obstruction from the rulebook.

But then, as Eoin Kelly’s unrewarded foray through two or three attempts to behead him underlined, while players grow ever stronger and more capable of taking the hits dished out in the name of fierce hunger, the balancing act referees are now asked to perform between flow and justice is becoming near impossible. So when, on any given Sunday, it does come down to a game of inches, we should be slow enough to blame the whistler when a wrong call decides it.

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