Cameras can’t cover all the angles

Confess it: when Dónal Óg Cusack criticised the decision to award Limerick a goal against Westmeath this summer you couldn’t have agreed more. Neither could we.

Cameras can’t cover all the angles

Maybe we wouldn’t have articulated it as strongly as Cusack did that night on The Sunday Game, “You’ve a referee looking at it, you’ve an umpire two yards away from it.

A sliotar does travel fast but it’s inexcusable. There would want to be serious question marks asked over that decision”, but the argument seemed sound.

Seven days later and Cusack was apologising after video footage from another angle showed Carlow referee Paud O’Dwyer and his umpire Tommy Fitzharris were actually correct to deem Paul Browne’s strike as having crossed the goal-line.

Cusack was the fall guy but how many more of us owed the two men a similar ‘sorry’ after saying or at least thinking the very same?

Once bitten, twice shy, RTÉ weren’t so quick to judge the next time a contested score raised its head. By the time Bernard Brogan had scored what initially appeared a dubious point against Mayo in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final, they had learned their lesson.

Much to the chagrin of us and several more on social media, they didn’t mention anything untoward about the . And they were right.

The following morning fully convinced HawkEye had made an error in not alerting referee Joe McQuillan to the ball not crossing the space between the posts, we made enquiries with Croke Park about the matter.

There was nothing wrong with the technology, they stated. The score was good, they maintained. And they were right. It wasn’t until we viewed footage of the score at least 20 times we had doubts the ball had gone wide.

On that count, we can sympathise with the much-maligned TV match officials during the Rugby World Cup. What they’re dealing with isn’t an exact science.

Yet the introduction of a TV match official to inter-county Gaelic games would aid over-burdened referees.

Wouldn’t Pat McEnaney have liked the chance to review or a second opinion on Benny Coulter’s square ball goal in 2010? Might Diarmuid Kirwan have awarded a free instead of a penalty to Kilkenny in the 2009 All-Ireland final had he or someone else had a chance to check where the foul had been committed?

At the same time, the GAA’s opposition to it is understandable. As exemplified by their stance against the clock/hooter, their determination to maintain the authority of the referee is over-zealous at times but both the Browne and Brogan scores are cases in point.

Cameras can’t be trusted when they have proven that they can deceive.

As the GAA’s director of games administration and player welfare Feargal McGill said at the time of the new footage of the Browne goal coming to light, “It just shows, and we have had this on several occasions with disputed points, that you cannot rely on TV cameras because of the angles that they’re taken from. We would just ask people to bear that in mind.

"When an umpire or a referee makes an absolute decision, they’re there on the spot in real time looking with their own two working eyes at what happened and it’s very unfair sometimes for a TV angle to be used to slate them afterwards when in fact they 100% did the right thing.

"This (footage) of all things shows the umpire was correct but it also shows the folly and the danger of people reacting on one piece of evidence rather than having all of the evidence.”

The GAA would also have grounds to be uncomfortable about faceless men making key decisions or at least contributing to the process. On the flipside, a TV match official would add to the dramatic effect, which was cited by the GAA as one of the pluses to the HawkEye technology.

However, human error remains a factor. In the first half of Saturday’s World Cup final, TMO Shaun Veldsman didn’t alert referee Nigel Owens to what appeared to be a forward pass by New Zealand in the play prior to them being awarded a penalty, which Dan Carter scored.

There are also limitations to cameras. For all the lenses in the Millennium Stadium last month, they were still unable to give definitive pictures on Ramiro Herrera’s dangerous tackle on Rory Best, which may have convinced referee Jerome Garces to send off the Argentinean prop.

As long as there are grey areas associated with the idea of a TV match official, the GAA won’t consider it. That means referees will largely have to fend for themselves but Croke Park’s trust in their men in black has rarely been shaken.

Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie

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