National referees development committee chairman Sean Walsh revealed the leading referees in Gaelic football and hurling believe they would be greatly assisted by the presence of a TMO in games.
As things stand, there are HawkEye review officials in Croke Park but their briefs are restricted to the score detection technology. Walsh has changed his mind on the subject having seen how HawkEye has helped the games.
“I was totally opposed to the TMO from the point of view that they were seven people already looking at the matches – the referee, the two linesmen and the four umpires.
“But what has changed my mind is the definitive nature of HawkEye. If the TMO, or some version of it was brought in, I could see it being a great help to referees.
“Going back a couple of months, we had a seminar of referees which was attended by the top match officials in the country and everyone was in favour of it. They see it as being of advantage to them. It’s a bit down the road but we have started a discussion and will continue it over the next couple of months. As someone who was opposed to it initially, I must stress we shouldn’t be afraid of technology, which I believe will be of benefit to the game.”
Croke Park remains sceptical of the TMO, however. They can point to the Limerick-Westmeath SHC qualifier game last year where TV footage deemed referee Paud O’Dwyer and his umpire were wrong to record a goal for Paul Browne when, in fact, a different camera angle showed they were actually correct to do so.
GAA director of games administration and player welfare Feargal McGill said at the time: “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.” Meanwhile, Walsh has issued a word of caution about plans to limit the number of consecutive hand-passes to three in Gaelic football.
“Along with marks from kick-outs that passed the 45 metre line and the solo free to restart a game, it has been reported the measure will be trialled early in the new year as part of a suite of recommendations by the playing rules committee.
“Limiting the hand-pass would be a nightmare for referees for what my opinion’s worth,” insisted Walsh. “It would make the game a lot more difficult for referees to manage. I support the mark from a kick-out that passes the 45 metre line but unless there is a compulsion on teams to kick the ball beyond the 45m line it won’t make a whole lot of difference. Every manager has a right to play the game and direct their team as they fit but that might not entail kicking the ball a lot. They work to their own capabilities. A limit of hand-passes would likely lead to more contentious situations and more hassle and more overcarrying. We should be looking at making the referee’s job easier, taking things out of the game from that respect rather than putting them in.”
Walsh also says there is merit in referees’ microphone feed being made available on a general basis, as was the case with David Coldrick in RTÉ’s recent All-Ireland Day documentary. “The programme showed how capable referees are of talking to players. It was an excellent programme and showed that David Coldrick had control throughout. It also demonstrated what they have to do in a big game with the pressure that comes with it. There is nothing to be afraid of with the microphones and players shouldn’t have anything to fear.”