Pat, one of the best, if not the best, hurling intercounty referees in the country over the past 14 years, refused to use the new radio link-up system in the Leinster SHC semi-final between Wexford and Offaly in Nowlan Park last month.
The system would link the referee with his linesmen, umpires, and fourth official and was only introduced for the first time in this year’s championship.
The match went well for Pat and his officials without the link-up and everybody was pleased with the standard of refereeing.
On Tuesday, July 11, Pat was appointed to referee Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC quarter-final between Kilkenny and Galway in Thurles.
But on the following Tuesday he was informed by telephone by the Referee Appointments Committee in Croke Park that he was being replaced by Cork official, Diarmuid Kirwan, because he was unwilling to use the radio link-up.
Pat’s reasons for not wanting to use this technology were simple. He felt that the communication he had with his other officials during matches over the past 14 years of his senior career worked well for him and he was never involved in any controversies with a system that had never left him down.
He also felt that the link-up would be a distraction which would interfere with his concentration on the match.
Also the umpires and the other officials had never been trained as to how and when to use the equipment and the system has not been experimented with in the National Leagues or secondary competitions.
Also the microphone and ear pieces of the link-up were unreliable.
I have first hand experience of this. I acted as an umpire a few weeks ago at the Leinster SHC quarter-final between Offaly and Laois.
The microphones and earpieces of the radio link-up would not work and we had to leave them in the dressingroom before the match.
I was also an umpire with Limerick referee John Sexton at the Leinster SHC semi-final between Kilkenny and Westmeath last month in Mullingar. On that day the radio link up with one umpire and one linesman did not work.
There are just two instances that I know of — but there could be many, many more.
Pat O’Connor has refereed at intercounty level for the past 14 years. During that time he has taken charge of minor and U21 All-Ireland, three senior All-Ireland, 5 NHL finals, two Munster and two Leinster finals, three Fitzgibbon finals and numerous other league and championship games.
And this is the thanks he gets from Croke Park.
Good referees are hard to come by without trying to get rid of the best one.
It would be more in line for the GAA if they looked after the huge disciplinary problems that they have encountered lately regarding player suspensions and their double standards regarding such suspensions, and leave the few good referees that are left to do the job to the best of their capabilities in the manner they are comfortable with.
Good referees are getting fewer by the day.
Yours in sport,