Football needs TMOs — and quickly

Last November George Hook took exception to Croke Park’s opposition to the introduction of a TV match official (TMO). Writing in his Mayo News column, he referred to this column in which we outlined the GAA’s reluctance to use a TMO.
Football needs TMOs — and quickly

“Just last week, a report in the Irish Examiner offered that as long as there are grey areas associated with a TV match official, the GAA won’t consider it. Have you ever heard such rubbish in your entire life? The crux of this argument is that, if there is a chance that a TV camera won’t pick up a decision, either way, then what’s the point in having it? It is this dark-age approach to conventional wisdom that sometimes sets the GAA apart from the rest of the world.

“Nobody has ever insisted that a television match official will get every decision correct, 100% of the time. But to dismiss the idea that GAA referees should get the help they need to do their job to the best of their ability because of the odd ‘what if’ scenario is crazy.”

Hook mightn’t be an expert on Gaelic games but he knows what fairness is. The introduction of a TMO to rugby since 2001 has made it a more just sport. For all its faults in slowing up the game, the technology has introduced another extra layer of integrity, an indelible one at that.

Croke Park don’t want it because they believe it would unnecessarily delay the action and take away from the spectacle. They also maintain referees are doing a good enough job on their own yet the football’s top men in black at the end of last year backed the introduction of replays being used to help make decisions in live situations.

Would it be a dereliction in the GAA’s duty of care not to heed the wishes and concerns of their finest referees?

David Gough is certainly one of them but he sure looked like he needed a dig-out on Sunday. For Kevin McManamon’s dunt on Peter Crowley, he may have been blinded by Philly McMahon. Joe McQuillan, the linesman on the Hogan Stand side, didn’t bring his attention to it but had Éamonn Fitzmaurice the opportunity to query the call then a TMO would have awarded a free to Kerry. With Bryan Sheehan on the field, the game might have then be squared up. On the flipside, Jim Gavin would have had the opportunity to question the legitimacy of Aidan O’Mahony’s bulldozing of Philly McMahon earlier in the second half. He may also have wanted a second look at Paul Geaney’s goal — and where would be the harm in that? Limiting each team to three calls, the GAA’s fear about constant disputations of decisions would be put to bed. However, GAA director general Páraic Duffy doesn’t see value in the idea. “I just don’t think it’s worth it, I don’t think we should go that way. And I think you have to accept the fact there will be controversies and mistakes from time to time and that’s what you buy into.”

Telling that to Kerry supporters now would prove quite the challenge.

A TMO would also have been of assistance in adjudicating the 45 calls in the 45th minute. Paul Murphy maintained his shot was touched by Davy Byrne. Seconds later, McManamon appeared to have fisted wide, which was the umpire’s take on it only for Gough to deem that Aidan O’Mahony had been the last man to touch it and Dean Rock’s resultant kick was good and true. A possible two-point swing right there.

Gough had a difficult day at the office, much like his fellow Meath man David Coldrick the week previous. Yet he was right in yellow carding Kieran Donaghy and Shane Enright; neither were black card offences — Donaghy a pull around and Enright a push in the back. After Geaney’s goal, he showed a yellow card to McMahon for the tongue lashing he gave one of his umpires. To remonstrate in such a way warrants a black card.

As for The Sunday Game’s analysis of the above flashpoints or lack thereof, questions have to be asked about why neither the 45 decisions were highlighted as well as Colm O’Rourke’s watery opinion of the Crowley decision. As it was pointed out by former Meath captain Anthony Moyles on Twitter, O’Rourke is currently managing Simonstown Gaels, who remain in a championship in which Gough is a referee. A conflict of interests? Perhaps.

There will be those in Kerry who now take a dimmer view of Gough’s relationship with Dublin – he is a teacher in St Pius X Boys National School in Templeogue, a feeder school of McManamon’s club St Judes club and is heavily involved in Cumann na mBunscol in the county. But none of that made him any less eligible to take charge of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final. He remains one of the best in the business. What he was subjected to coming off the field was downright disgraceful. But he needs to do his job better. Every referee does. A TMO would help no end. On that count, Hook is right.

A classic but not in the 2013 class

Fresh eyes often cloud judgement more than nostalgia as has been evidenced by the declarations that Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final was superior to the 2013 one between Dublin and Kerry. Goals make games and 2013 had six of them to the two at the weekend but then it had other qualities than what the latest instalment failed to offer.

Yes, some of Dublin’s point-taking, particularly in pressurised situations, was breathtaking but not only did they have more scorers three years ago — 12 compared to seven — they also offered more from play — 3-14 to 0-12.

Yes, Kerry’s blitz towards the end of Sunday’s first-half was exciting but it wasn’t a patch on how thrilling they were in the first half of the 2013 affair when they found the net three times in the first 20 minutes. Dublin recovered superbly on Sunday in response to conceding 2-4 on the bounce but their comeback in ’13 was even more spectacular when they could have been creamed as early as they were in 2009.

Like in 2013, Kerry held the lead in the closing stages like a bar of soap and while Kevin McManamon and Eoghan O’Gara’s goals back then put a harsh complexion on the scoreboard they contributed to the entertainment aspect far more than a controversial refereeing decision as was seen when Peter Crowley was illegitimately upended without punishment.

This fourth Dublin victory over Kerry rightfully takes it place far above the 2011 and ’15 All-Ireland finals but ’13 remains the benchmark.

Gavin now right up Tipp’s street

Lazy analysis would suggest the appointment of Brian Gavin as referee for Sunday’s All-Ireland final was met with delight in the Kilkenny camp and derision in Tipperary. The Offaly man was in charge when Kilkenny prospered in the 2011 All-Ireland final and the ’14 replay but to say he had a hand or part to play in those outcomes is idiotic talk.

Brian Cody doesn’t think it’s an advantage. “I would be happy with whoever is refereeing it because I can’t do anything about it. If we were to start saying, ‘Oh my God, we don’t want him ’, that leads to a sense of you’re taking your eye off the ball.

“I think it wasn’t a surprise. I think it was speculated he was going to referee, I didn’t know. Usually, the lads who do the semis don’t do the final, I think, I don’t know. But Brian is doing it and that’s fine.” Gavin is known for letting the game flow, a style Tipp are more comfortable with now they are in their fourth year of strength and conditioning under Lukasz Kirszenstein.

The presence of Michael Breen, Seamus Kennedy and Dan McCormack along with Pádraic Maher and a steelier Brendan Maher around the middle provides them with a more aggressive edge.


More in this section