Seamus Hickey hopes technology comes to aid of referees

Former Limerick All-Star Seamus Hickey has claimed it was ‘short-sighted’ of the GAA not to have seriously considered introducing video technology to assist referees. Hickey’s Limerick were on the wrong end of arguably the biggest mistake all season when a ‘65 to potentially level their All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny wasn’t awarded.

Seamus Hickey hopes technology comes to aid of referees

Former Limerick All-Star Seamus Hickey has claimed it was ‘short-sighted’ of the GAA not to have seriously considered introducing video technology to assist referees. Hickey’s Limerick were on the wrong end of arguably the biggest mistake all season when a ‘65 to potentially level their All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny wasn’t awarded.

A Darragh O’Donovan sideline cut deflected off Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley before crossing the end-line but a puck-out was awarded and full-time sounded shortly after with Kilkenny winning by a point. Hickey, the chairman of the GPA, noted that all of the various match officials were in place at the time to make the correct call but still failed to do so.

Limerick lodged an official complaint afterward and expressed ‘disappointment, frustration and dissatisfaction’ at the outcome.

“I’m talking to players and they find it very, very difficult,” said Hickey of the situation. “If you want to bring in video technology, that motion was brought to Central Council when I was sitting on it, by Roscommon, and it was dismissed. It wasn’t considered.

I think some of the early-stage background research that went into it, found it was that the cost wouldn’t justify the payback in the number of instances (it would be used).

“I wasn’t sure. I felt like probably a decent feasibility study could have been carried out. I felt that looking into it could never be a bad thing. They brought up the example of Hawk-Eye and the investment that was required just to get that off the ground. But I would have said that looking at it would have been prudent, especially the way sport has gone in every other facet. I think it was probably a bit short-sighted and I think it’s something that will be revisited in the short-term.”

Video assistant referees (VAR) are now an established part of soccer while the GAA itself introduced Hawk-Eye technology in 2013 to adjudicate on scores. The apparatus famously ruled out what would have been the winning point for Tipperary in the drawn 2014 All-Ireland hurling final, though it doesn’t consider playing rule infringements.

“I don’t know if there’s a silver bullet for it but the umpire was there at the foot of the post, the referee was on the field, where was he for the decision? Do we need more officials?” said Hickey, referencing the O’Donovan/Buckley incident. “Probably not because there was enough people there so it’s one of those things that will come up at referees’ training as an example of, ‘This is what can happen’.”

Hickey retired from county duty last December, months after Limerick’s breakthrough All-Ireland success. He said that while 2019 ended on a sour note with that defeat to Kilkenny, it was actually one of the county’s best ever seasons with Allianz League and Munster titles annexed.

“It was a tough one for Limerick, the ending,” he said.

What had the potential for a terrific year then got lost a bit, which was a pity. Because being National League champions, in the manner that they did, being Munster champions, in the manner that they did, in the last 45 years I’d say last year (2018) was probably the only one that trumps this one.

But Hickey rejected the notion that the best team didn’t win the All-Ireland. “That’s not fair on Tipperary, no, that’s not fair on Tipperary,” he said. “Last year, we won the All-Ireland after a terrific route and beating all the best teams. But we didn’t beat Clare. And Clare people let us know about it! Every All-Ireland is won by the team that ultimately stayed the course and justifiably, Tipperary and Liam Sheedy deserve enormous credit for that.”

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