GAA president Christy Cooney has said there will be no rash of cards or controversies when the championship begins, as has been the case in recent seasons when an interpretation of rules by referees has marred the opening fixtures.
Last year, the initial games in the football championship were overshadowed by the emphasis on the hand pass, while hurling was blighted by a discussion over a handful of high-profile red cards deemed to be frontal challenges.
However, the most famous example of referees laying down the law happened in 1999 when Cork referee Niall Barrett used six red cards and 14 yellows during a Leinster football tie between Carlow and Westmeath at Dr Cullen Park.
Barrett was among the first to officiate a championship game shortly after the decision to introduce the use of the coloured cards but there are no such changes this year.
“What happens really is when we have a change in playing rules and we have no change this year and hopefully not for three or four years,” said the president.
The rules may be the same but the pressures on referees seems to be escalating. Mickey Harte and Jim McGuinness railed against the presence of assessors who have supposedly introduced a fear factor.
It was reported earlier this week that one leading referee was docked points by the man in the stands because one of his umpires had worn a hat and was improperly attired, according to the rule book.
Cooney refused to comment on that particular case on the basis that he had not heard anything about it but was adamant in refuting the more general point about the role of assessors and their supposed influence.
“The assessment isn’t there as a form of punishment or a big stick,” he claimed. “It is there as a form of support, as a learning and development process to enhance the skills of our referees and give them whatever training is necessary to improve their skills.”
Cooney also played down reports referees had been told to forget about assessors in the stands for the summer to come. “They have always been told that,” he said. “That is nothing new.”
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